With easing in the strict lockdown restrictions on Monday, Mumbai witnessed traffic jams on highways, heavy rush on roads, and long queues at bus stops. Mumbai, one of the worsthit cities from Covid-19, saw a surge in traffic and heavy jams.
As part of the “Mission Begin Again” which focuses on phase-wise reopening of the economy and public activities, the Maharashtra government has decided to open up the city.
Two important highways— Eastern Express and Western Express—that join two different parts of the city both were congested. Traffic jams were seen for more than 10km as cars stood in queues for many hours. With bumper-to-bumper traffic, it took long hours for people to reach their offices. “It took more than one hour for me to reach my office from Kanidvali to Andheri,” said Karan Solanki. For people staying in the Kalyan-Dombivali area, it is impossible to travel for more than three hours and reach even till Vikhroli-Ghatkopar.
BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) buses, known as the “second lifeline of Mumbai”, plied on roads, but didn’t seem enough for the masses who stepped out of their houses, risking their lives amidst the corona scare. Long queues without social distancing were observed at bus stops and many had to wait for hours to board buses to reach their offices. Many just gave up on going to the office as it took more than one hour to board a bus.
Mithun Raychad, a labour law consultant residing at Dombivali, said: “I waited for more than one hour in a 1-2 km long queue, but when my turn did not come even then, I decided to return home.” The frequency of long distance buses was also low. As per information received till morning hours of Monday, 2,132 BEST buses were on the road, with a total number of 1,992 conductors and 2,024 drivers and 76 bus starters on duty. Passengers were asked to maintain social distancing—so on each row of seat, one person was allowed to sit on both sides; thus, in total, 22 could sit and only five were allowed to stand.
All important religious places in Mumbai from temples to churches to dargahs remained close as opening up of the same is yet to be decided by the Maharashtra government as the lockdown in Maharashtra is slated to continue till 30 June. Many people were seen praying from outside the famous Siddhivinayak temple in Dadar, while hardly anyone was seen at the Mount Mary Church of Bandra or Haji Ali Dargah.
While malls remained closed, some big shops were open with only few customers. Big markets were open too, but the response was poor. The owners felt that people are still afraid of coming to the markets, though all arrangements to ensure social distancing norms have been put in place.
Amid all the chaos as the Maximum City embarks on an unlock mode, many people still seem to be afraid to step out of their homes. Many people complained about poor planning on the part of the government. It is risky to travel by public transport, with many seen violating norms of social distancing and not wearing masks. Nikhil, an engineer by profession, said: “Obviously, I am afraid, but there should be proper transportation arrangements for those who can’t work from home and have to go to office.”