The state has decided that from Monday it will allow the plying of private buses along with the reopening of electronics, stationery, paint and hardware stores, reports Avishek Rakshit.
West Bengal has decided to provide further relaxation from Monday, when the extended lockdown is scheduled to end, and has even allowed plying of private buses.
Besides government-run bus networks, such as West Bengal Transport Corporation, South Bengal State Transport Corporation, and North Bengal State Transport Corporation, the private bus network is a key lifeline for daily commuters. In Kolkata alone, more than 9,000 buses ferry passengers daily.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said: “Private bus operators are also facing economic hardship. We have decided to allow private buses to ply, provided they obtain necessary permissions from the transport department and district magistrate. Social distancing, including wearing of masks, is a must and not more than 20 people will be allowed.”
However, private buses may ply only within the same district. It would imply opening up the public mass transport system from May 4, to an extent. Operator unions suggested that more clarity was needed regarding red and orange zones, as buses may have to cross such zones during the course of their permitted routes.
The CM, however, cautioned that violation of social distancing norms would lead to revocation of permissions. Banerjee added that taxi services would re-start in a phased manner. At present, the state government has permitted around 100 taxis to operate in a centralised manner, controlled by the police, to address emergencies.
Standalone shops of electronics, stationery, mobile and battery recharge, and hardware, along with laundromats, tea stalls, and betel leaf kiosks have been permitted to open their shutters from Monday. Micro-small neighbourhood stores will also reopen.
“However, hawkers and roadside stores are not allowed. We will open things in a phased manner depending on the situation,” Banerjee said.
Industries such as iron and steel, and construction, have also been given the nod to operate from Monday in green zones.
However, the lockdown will continue in red zones. In Kolkata alone, 227 sensitive areas have been identified.
Banerjee, nevertheless, clarified that experts and doctors have opined that restrictions imposed to check the spread of the virus should continue in the state till May-end.
The decision comes even as the state continues to have the 10th highest number of cases and the pace of new cases having increased.