The West Bengal government has been marginally relenting regarding the schedule of local trains in Kolkata, extending the deadline from 7 PM to 10 PM. Its largely been due to the COVID-19 that has spread out like a wildfire across the city.
However, the question remains, will it be enough to curb the situation and if it is, what is the price of this accomplishment?
The State government had to give in after extensive protests regarding the curbing of commuter trains post 7 PM.
On January 2nd, a circular was issued by the state government which went, “Local trains shall operate with 50% seating capacity and only up to 7 P.M.”
This was a sign of reciprocity, to the spike in COVID-19 infections after massive crowds appeared in Kolkata for celebrating the 25th and the 31st of December.
Outraged at the unreasonably strict stance by the government, hundreds of commuters took to protesting and blockading on the railway tracks on Monday. Multiple stations across the state became places of outrage, agony, and despair.
Witnessing the growing discontent among the people, and unthinkable afternoon crowds at the major stations, the state government was forced to change its stance on the issue.
Another circular was issued on the 3rd of January. Ekalabya Chakravarti, an Eastern Railway spokesperson commented, “As advised by the State Government all locals, suburban/EMU train services shall operate till 10 P.M. from today itself with 50% seating capacity”.
While the new schedule is very good news for the passengers, it must not be forgotten that in a regular environment trains run up until 3 a.m. in the morning. The train massacre, to put it mildly, is being viewed by some as a failure of the state government to curb the large masses who turned up in Kolkata for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Others see this as an act of gross irresponsibility on the part of the people coming mainly from the suburbs. The COVID-19 situation in Kolkata and its adjacent areas has only gotten worse. While the train curbs were necessary under the current circumstances, there must be a neutral investigation regarding the cause of this dire situation.
The city dwellers are delighted at the proposition of curbing the local trains from the suburbs. However, it also endangers the livelihood of many people returning from or going to Kolkata during the late hours of the night.
While people in Kolkata feel a trifle safer on the partial lockdown imposed on the city, the suburbs of that very city are being crushed under a ruthless situation, in spite of it being absolutely no fault of their own.
The Deepening Crisis
On the 4th and the 5th of January, the early morning trains were canceled to further restrict the movement of commuters across the state. This led to another series of protests by the local people, particularly on the Sealdah-Bongaon line. Stations like Taldi and Thakur Nagar were witness to massive crowds squatting on the railway tracks to impede the progress of the trains.
The situation is dire with the crisis developing into nightmarish situations at every turn. Only time will tell if this situation can ever be properly resolved.
However, what the situation provides is the polarity of experience and the opposing narratives of human experience. Instead of trying to avert responsibility, it is high time both the government and the people start taking this situation a bit more seriously.
It is imperative for us to remember that the COVID-19 is not individual, it is communal and thus, it is not the responsibility of one but of every one of us to ensure that we behave sincerely and sensibly for a better tomorrow.
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This post is tagged under: Omicron, Local Trains, Covid-19, Kolkata, Railway, Government, Protest, Crisis, Schedule