The lockdown in India which was announced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a complete shutdown of public transport due to safety reasons. The COVID situation has changed the way people work and commute all around the world. Manipal is a city which has a major crowd that prefers public transportation, especially autos, which has been greatly affected due to the current situation.
The student crowd in Manipal is the major source of income for the auto “annas” of the town. Since the University had announced a lockdown for the students, they started heading back home. Income has been strenuous. Quarantine and social distancing make it even harder for the auto drivers in Manipal.
Most of the times the autos and buses ply the city they seem to be running empty. The message to “avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary” remains the same even with the restrictions being selectively removed. People in the city do not prefer to travel by public transport considering the social distancing rules and their safety. Car journeys are on a considerable rise.
A major question that arises is will the use of public transport in the city restart post lockdown? A few cities in the country where travelling in public transport was resumed observed a drop in ridership. A significant drop can be expected in Manipal as well.
The use of public transport is expected to reduce for six months post lockdown and ‘health safety’ will be the top priority for people while choosing the most suitable mode of travel, a recent analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment claimed.
The auto drivers in the city while talking to Manipal Digest stated how it was difficult to even earn a minimum amount in a day. The “annas” think that it will take a long time for things to get back to function normally again in the city.
In the initial stages of the lockdown, the autos had a rule of carrying only two passengers at a time, however, as the situation worsened the number of people travelling dropped drastically. Income is less than 90% of what it was before the entire country went into a lockdown and so did the city of Manipal. There are days when a full day of waiting does not even get them a single passenger.
According to the auto drivers of the city, fuel prices are rising, goods are becoming costlier and survival harder as days are passing by. The auto annas who have requested to stay anonymous shared with us how even the buses after a wait of 4-6 hours leave the stands mostly empty. When asked as to what they have to say about business during the lockdown, the only answer we receiver in unison was, “Flop”.
The recent situations suggest that the trust of the masses needs to be brought back to ensure the use of public transport with proper safety guidelines and recommendations. This is important to the people travelling and the numerous people who are dependent on this sector for a living.
Feature image: Soumik Paul Angan