The Mirror of Manipur || Fast, Factual and Fearless.

EXCLUSIVE: COVID SoP for passenger vehicles gets a cold shoulder

An auto rickshaw jam packed with passengers

A ground report by TFM found the passengers and drivers alike flouting the SOPs while authorities turning a blind eye it.

By Tanoranjan Naorem

As the number of new COVID-19 cases continued to spike at an alarming rate in Manipur, the state government has been imposing several restrictions — from night curfew to closing of Khwairamband Keithel, with an aim to stop further spread of the infection. Amongst the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the guidelines for passenger vehicles seems to be not followed by the public nor regulated by the concerned department.

A ground report by TFM found the passengers and drivers alike flouting the SOPs. While some expressed the impracticality of the SOP, while others seem to not care for the guidelines at all. 

Almost all the passenger-ferrying vehicles in the state are privately owned. Auto rickshaw, Tata Magic, Winger, buses, etc remain the main means of transportation between districts and in the capital city as well.

TFM found that auto rickshaws were carrying 8-10 passengers, 8-12 in Tata Magic, 10-14 in Winger and buses were found to be carrying 20-30 passengers. While some of the passengers were found without face masks, others were wearing it improperly.

As per the SOP issued by the government, the passenger vehicles were instructed to carry 50 per cent of the total capacity, while maintaining social distancing.

Talking to TFM, a passenger said that as the number of positive cases increases, the number of passenger vehicles operating in the state decreases. Unlike earlier, it has become difficult to wait for a vehicle to reach the desired destination. In order to go for essential work, we usually board the available passenger vehicle, she said.

According to another passenger, even though the passenger vehicles adhere to the SOP at the point of departure, the drivers allow other passengers on the way to the destination. We are helpless and just travel to reach our destination as soon as possible, even though it is congested, he said and expressed his desire for the government to look into the problem.

According to a driver, the passenger vehicles are trying to follow the SOP and ferry less passengers. But in order to compensate, the fare has been increased accordingly. Apart from the profit, there is a possibility of losing money in operating on this condition, he said. Stating that some passengers do not agree with the increased fare, he urged the public to understand that it is for the best of all of us in order to defeat COVID-19.

Another driver said that some passengers even refuse to step into the vehicle due to the increased fare. If such things continue then we fear we might lose our job. He also said that the number of vehicles has also decreased significantly due to the increasing number of positive cases. Stating that the drivers are always trying to adhere to the SOP, he said that some passengers who were waiting at bus stops or on the way got angry for refusing to let them in. We also ferry them out of sympathy sometimes, he added.

In view of the worsening situation due to the second wave, the state government has been adopting several measures to curb the spread of the virus. While Khwairamband Keithel has been closed for ten days, shops in Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar have been made to operate on rotation. Without a negative COVID report in the last 72 hours, no one is allowed to enter the state. Negative reports and vaccination are now required for an individual to meet chief minister N Biren Singh. For religious and customary functions, a maximum of only 20 people has been allowed, as per the government’s guidelines.

Many have been fined, even sent to jail, for violating the guidelines. The penalties have also been increased recently.

But the question remains whether the SOP regarding the passenger vehicles is being properly enforced or not. It is evident that the virus is spread through droplets, experts are now even saying that the recent strain might be airborne. In light of this, if the SOP is not maintained properly, these passenger vehicles have the potential to carry the virus from place to place, though inadvertently.

While there seems to be a need for the government to relook at the practicality of the SOP and to enforce a better one strictly, the passengers also need to realise the dangers of not following the SOP with the new strain which is more contagious, in mind.

You might also like
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.