As offices gradually open in Kolkata, a large part of the city’s workforce commuting from suburbs are finding it difficult to reach work due to limited transport facilities.
Many workers are now cycling to reach their workplace in Kolkata, covering large distances of over 20 kilometres or more.
It may be noted that a major part of the city’s workforce comes from Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, East Midnapore, West Midnapore and Nadia district every day.
Normally, they would travel on trains and buses before the lockdown, but since neither is available now, many workers are using bicycles to reach work. For many, it is the cheapest option as they cannot afford to book private cabs.
Sandip Agarwal, a resident of Konnagar, said, “I am riding from Konnagar…it is almost 20 kms. The buses are not operating, trains are not running and the auto is not for this distance.”
“And I cannot afford the fares charged by cabs. There is nothing at all on the streets. We are facing problems so the only way out was to ride on a bicycle to office,” he added.
Md. Ashraful, another such individual, said he is cycling almost 10 kilometres from Bally to Kolkata to reach his office.
He said, “I am coming from Bally, which is around 10 kms by road. I had to finally take a cycle home. I was waiting from the morning in the queue for an autothen went for a bus and finally, I had to ride a cycle to work. Reporting to work is important.”
Lower-income groups affected
Most people riding a bicycle to work have an income less than Rs. 20,000 per month, so travelling via cabs is not a feasible option. They are also scared that they will be fired if they do not report to work.
A rider said, “I am wearing a mask, a screen, gloves…and it is so difficult to ride in this heat. I have completed 10 kms of cylcing already and I will have to do this in the evening also.”
Private buses have been allowed to operate without any hike in tariff, but they have refused to resume without an increase in fares. Therefore, there are no private buses on the roads and only a few state buses are operating.
Workers travelling to Kolkata from Howrah are facing severe problems as it is almost impossible to cycle to their offices on a daily basis. And buses plying on the route hardly have space for 20-25 passengers.
A passenger said, “I am coming from Santragachi and I am facing a lot of problems because I have to go to Salt Lake. The rate of buses is Rs 10 but they are charging us Rs. 30 per passenger. Two buses have gone because they are taking only passengers limited to the number of seats …so Now I am waiting here for the third bus.”
Satish Sharma, another passenger said, “I have to change three modes of transport to reach office now. It is very painful and exhausting.”
The confusion of transport facilities in Kolkata and suburbs have already created a major hurdle for passengers and it could further increase when more people will start going to work.