Doctors say overcrowding can worsen health conditions, passengers raise objections but are ignored.
KOLKATA: Public buses in Kolkata carry more passengers than the actual number of seats. Despite objections raised by passengers, bus conductors permit people ignoring the advisories issued by the government of West Bengal. Doctors say overcrowding could cause the virus to spread.
Krishna Das, a daily bus commuter says that at times passengers don’t even wear masks and they are still allowed in the bus. He says he has to travel daily to his shoe factory in Rajabazar by bus, which is usually crowded.
Keka Ghosh, another passenger stated that the buses are the most crowded during office hours. None of the buses abide by the rules issued by the government during that hour. “There’s zero social-distancing,” she adds. “Some of the conductors don’t even wear the masks properly, they have certain portions of their face exposed,” she said. With too many people in an enclosed space and masks covering our mouths, it causes suffocation, she added.
The government of West Bengal had issued certain directives dated May 18, 2020, that enlisted measures to combat the pandemic. According to the notice, intra-state bus services should operate with not more than 20 passengers or 50 percent of the seating capacity.
Further relaxations were made and enlisted on a notice dated May 30, 2020, which stated intra-state (inter-district) movement of government and private buses with not more than the actual seating capacity should be allowed and all passengers should wear face masks and gloves during the entire journey.
“Buses are always empty except for the slight rush during office hours,” said Goutam Bagchi, a bus conductor from Karunamoyee Bus Depot.
“Due to the resumption of suburban railway services in Kolkata from Wednesday, passengers are travelling less in buses now,” he added. The buses are sanitized every day in the morning, he claimed. He added that he never witnessed a sight where passengers raised any objections.
Arman Haque, an internee doctor at KPC Medical College Jadavpur, said “Overcrowding of buses is certainly against social distancing, people think that they are asymptomatic but they can be potential carriers of the virus. Other than the coronavirus, they could also be carriers of other communicable diseases like measles, tuberculosis and skin diseases.”
“More than the passengers, I think the responsibility should come from the operational authorities who are in charge of implementing this,” he added.
Dr Bidhan Roy, an ENT specialist said that two percent of the virus remains floating in the air. So, when a person in an enclosed space coughs or interacts without wearing a mask, the concentration of the suspended virus in the air increases. The lack of airflow in a closed space amplifies the potential of the virus infecting others, he added.