Flouting Covid-19 norms in metro may attract heavy fines once it reopens

A flying squad of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the Delhi Metro, will be on the lookout for any violation of rules that have been put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Epidemiologists have warned against resuming Metro services, citing an increase in Delhi’s case positivity rate. In fact, as on Friday, Delhi had logged an average of 1,544 new cases of the infection in the past seven days — the highest since mid-July.(Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)
Epidemiologists have warned against resuming Metro services, citing an increase in Delhi’s case positivity rate. In fact, as on Friday, Delhi had logged an average of 1,544 new cases of the infection in the past seven days — the highest since mid-July.(Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Sep 02, 2020 06:10 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAnvit Srivastava

Travelling without a face mask, sitting on seats that are meant to be left vacant in order to maintain social distancing, spitting, and littering in trains or platforms, may attract hefty fines once Delhi Metro services resume in the Capital, according to people familiar with the matter.

A flying squad of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which guards the Delhi Metro, will be on the lookout for any violation of rules that have been put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19. The fines could start from Rs 500 for first-time offenders and are likely to be scaled up significantly for a repeat offence, the people added.

Delhi Metro services have remained suspended since March 22, when the “janta curfew” (voluntary curfew) was observed on an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, two days before a 68-day national lockdown was imposed. While other modes of public transport have been allowed with restrictions since then, as part of a gradual “unlocking”, Metro services -- including the Delhi Metro, which caters to nearly 2.4 daily million passengers -- have remained suspended.

Also Read: To reach 40k tests target, Delhi govt clinics to stay open longer

When the Delhi Metro will begin has not been announced yet, but there have been indications that its resumption could be a part of the next unlock norms to be announced before September 1.

Decisions regarding new protocols for the Metro -- whenever it resumes -- were taken in a meeting convened by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on Thursday, and attended by senior officers from CISF and the Delhi Police. The meeting was also attended by senior police officers from the adjoining states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, as the Delhi Metro also operates services to parts of these states that fall within the National Capital Region (NCR).

One of the officials who was a part of the meeting said on condition of anonymity that it was decided all guidelines set by the Indian Council of Medical Research must be strictly followed. “Any passenger who is caught spitting or dirtying will be fined. Those who do not follow rules like wearing a mask; are found sitting on seats that are to be left vacant; or deliberately violating social distancing norms will also be fined,” the official said.

Also Read: Govt asks states to focus on elderly to reduce fatalities

When contacted, deputy inspector general, CISF, Jitender Rana, said the force’s Alpha teams and flying squads will step up checks and monitoring. “Apart from our regular security work, our teams will also keep an eye out for anyone disrupting hygiene on Delhi Metro, thereby putting fellow passengers at risk. Such violators will be caught and fined,” Rana said.

A third officer privy to the developments said: “The fine will be of 500 for a first-time offender and may go up significantly for repeat offenders. Those not complying or refusing to pay the fine may be prosecuted and be handed over to the Delhi Metro Rail Police (DMRP), a unit of the Delhi Police,” he said.

The third officer added that the CISF personnel checking commuters at entry points will wear personal protective equipment. Before passengers can enter the station, their will be checked for body temperature, masks, and their status on Aarogya Setu app will be verified. “This may cause queues outside the station and so a Delhi Police personnel will be deployed to ensure social distancing,” he said, adding that access gates to stations will be opened depending upon the footfall and size of the station.

Also Read: Covid-19: What you need to know today

Other norms in Delhi Metro once it starts operations include a ban on the use of tokens, introduction of automatic top-up facility to recharge smart cards, designated spots for passengers at platforms and controlled air-conditioning, with the temperature to be maintained at 26 degrees Celsius.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal last week urged the Centre to resume Metro services in the national capital, saying the people of city were requesting for it. “We have taken this up with the central government on several occasions. We have urged the Centre to explore the possibility of resuming Metro services in Delhi, while keeping it prohibited in other states. Delhi is a special case because we have the Covid-19 situation under control,” he had said at a webinar with traders.

A DMRC spokesperson confirmed that a meeting was held with security officials on Thursday. The spokesperson, however, declined to comment on what transpired at the meeting.

Prashant Kumar, 27, a resident of Mehrauli, who works at a private finance firm in Connaught Place, said since the Metro is shut, he has been forced to take cabs. “Working from home isn’t an option every day. We have to go to office and cab refunds are not provided by the company. The expense is too much for me. We’ve been waiting for Metro services to resume. If the government can resume flights, it can also take due precautions and resume the Metro service,” Kumar said.

In nearly all countries hit hard by Covid-19, lockdown restrictions, including those on public transit, have been lifted after the peak of daily cases had abated and remained low. This trend has been consistent in countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany, South Korea, and Japan. Epidemiologists have also warned against resuming Metro services, citing an increase in Delhi’s case positivity rate. In fact, as on Friday, Delhi had logged an average of 1,544 new cases of the infection in the past seven days — the highest since mid-July.

Doctor Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases, ICMR, said in Delhi, the number of Covid-19 cases is increasing every day. “The positivity rate is already on the rise. So if the population is mixing, it is likely to increase the chances of infection,” he said.

Sewa Ram, professor and head of the department of transport and planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, said there was a similar fear with running DTC buses, but Metro has a better infrastructure. “However, modifications will be required. The authorities will need to ensure contactless travel, social distancing and operational changes. There needs to have stringent measures and checks. If it’s done the right way, reopening of the Metro will be of immense help to people who depend on it for their mobility,” Ram said.

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