After the recommendation of the Cabinet sub-committee, the state Transport Department, in a late-night development, has decided to resume intra-district and inter-district public transport in the state from June 1, even after the state has witnessed a sharp 12-times surge in COVID-19 cases for the last 23 days.
The public health experts warn that the resumption of bus services run the risk of further spread of COVID-19 infection that has already witnessed 12-times surge in the last 23 days.
“The infection was imported through trains from outside the state. It can also spread through public transport as it will be difficult to control the passengers observing social distancing. Sanitisation of vehicles is another issue,” said a community medicine expert requesting anonymity.
The state Transport Minister, Gobind Singh Thakur, however, told The Tribune that the government had decided not to run the bus services in the hot containment zones to avoid the risk of the spread of the virus.
“But public transport will be resumed from June 1 with 60 per cent capacity,” he added.
Thakur said the state government has urged the private operators to resume bus services with the HRTC from June 1.
“We have waived the state road tax and have postponed payment of fees and other taxes till July. We will consider their other demands as well but will not increase the bus fare as we cannot burden the public,” he added.
The state Transport Minister said the Transport Department would provide sanitisers, face masks and face shields to the drives and conductors. The district administration would ensure law and order, he added.
The officials, however, opined that the arrival of a large number of Himachal residents from COVID-infected states for the last three weeks had resulted in the import of infection in the green zones.
The private transporters, who cater to the 40 per cent of public transport service in the state and have about 3,200 buses in the private sector, are of the view that they were already running into huge losses due to the lockdown and the high cost of transportation.
“We would resume the public transport at 60 per cent of the seating capacity only when the state government compensate us,” the president of a private bus operator association, RK Prashar said.
“It is difficult to ready the buses by June 1 as these are run out service due to the lockdown,” he added.
Source : The Tribune