The Maharashtra Health Minister, Rajesh Tope, clarified on Wednesday, July 22 as to why his government is stepping away from indicating green signal to local trains in Mumbai. Tope, in a press conference, on Wednesday, shared the apprehension of impossibility to observe social distancing once the lifeline of the city is resumed amid Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The state minister was addressing the recent incident of protest by commuters at Mumbai’s Nallasopara railway station demanding for resumption of local trains in Mumbai.
“There is no problem in running the trains, but the crowd in local trains is such that social distancing becomes impossible. Hence, we are not allowing. Their demand is right but it is not right to violate social distancing guidelines and protest,” stated Maharashtra Health Minister during the press conference.
The state minister agreed that the region observes several people commuting everyday, however, considering the lethal virus contagion, the state government has yet not signalled to resume the local trains in the city. Paying heed to the recent protest by the commuters at Nallasopara railway station, Tope appealed to people to “not to take law in their hand”. He stated that the demands of the commuters will be communicated to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who will take the final call on the issue.
“Chief Minister will take a call on when to start trains. We will convey to him about people’s demand,” Tope assured the people of the city affected due to non-operation of local trains in the city. After completely stopping the train service in the state due to the announcement of nationwide lockdown since March 23, the train service in Mumbai was resumed on June 15 for essential services professionals. The same made the travelling of the non-essential service professionals within the city onerous.
On Wednesday, around 8.25am, a crowd of around 200 commuters staged a protest at Nallasopara MSRTC bus stand as well as the railway station. The commuters were demanding to arrange bus service for them too like it is arranged for the essential service professionals. Upon failing to arrange the bus services for them, the commuters staged violent protests at the stand and the railway station, after which, the bus stand was shut for major part of the day.
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The police tried to intervene, however, the protesters outnumbered them, subsequent to which, additional police force was called and the crowd was dispersed. The chief public relations officer, Western Railway, Sumit Thakur, informed that a case was registered under sections 145, 147 and 174 (a) of the Railway Act and the station was cleared off by 8.45am on Wednesday. The bus service only began after 10.30pm amidst heavy police bandobast.