The resumption of train services in Mumbai caused cheer among many state government officials who had been spending substantial time daily commuting from their homes to their place of work. However, there was resentment among a section of people working in central government departments and private offices who in spite of being categorised as essential service providers have been kept away from commuting in these trains.
The local trains resumed operations with restricted services only for essential workers after remaining shut for 84 days since March 23. On Monday mostly state government officials were allowed to board the trains.
A 49-year-old resident of Chembur, Ganpati Yadav, who works at National Insurance Company, was stopped at CSMT station on Monday evening. Yadav said, “I learnt of trains restarting from a few office workers who took the train to reach work. I thought, I’ll take the train back home but was not allowed.”
Jaya Alvin, who works with UKO Bank, was not allowed to board the train from Churchgate station. “I can take the BEST bus but one has to wait for 45 minutes. But at the station, the policemen said they have been instructed to not allow bankers.”
The orders issued by the state on Sunday allowed those working with nationalised banks to commute in the trains but kept private banks away from taking advantage of the service. Apart from bankers, employees of Mumbai Port Trust despite being government employees were not allowed to board trains. A few printed pages put out at CSMT station declared that only employees of municipal corporations, policemen and government hospital staff were allowed.
Mumbai Port Trust Chairman Sanjay Bhatia has written a letter to both Western and Central Railway requesting to allow its employees to travel on local trains. In the letter addressed to both the general managers of the two railways Bhatia said that “Mumbai Port Trust falls in the ambit of the Essential Services Act and has been handling essential commodities to ensure continuation of the supply chain”.
The letter further said that for seamless operation of the port, its employees have to report to work. The request states that the employees be allowed to travel on production of an identity card. On Monday, even as local trains resumed, some of the Port Trust employees who attempted to enter the railway stations were not permitted to do so. Currently, buses have been arranged by the Port Trust for its employees but social-distancing has been difficult to comply with at all times, said an employee.
While none of the court staff were also allowed to board in these trains, advocate Kedar Khambete, a resident of Thane, who practices in the Bombay High Court, said, “Lawyers and court staff staying at far off suburbs, who are included in essential services, should be allowed to board local trains as most of the courts and law firms are situated in South or Central Mumbai. I thought of taking the train to office on Monday, however, I got to know that only government servants were allowed to enter the railway station. As the courts have started functioning in a staggered manner with easing of restrictions, every lawyer cannot afford to take a private vehicle to office or the court situated more than 30 km away from home.”
Government Railway Police Commissioner Ravindra Sengaokar has written to the state government asking further clarification on who all can be included as a part of essential workers. The GRP personnel along with RPF have been tasked with checking ID cards to allow passengers inside.
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