Scared to hail a taxi or board an auto amid Covid scare? Cabbies and auto operators in the city have come up with a solution for you. They have placed plastic sheet barriers between the drivers and rear seat passengers to ensure social distancing and protection against the spread of coronavirus.
The idea was floated by officials of the Bidhannagar commissionerate when they convened a meeting with drivers of yellow taxis, app cabs and pre-paid taxis that ply in Salt Lake and New Town. The concept made sense and taxi union leaders across Kolkata, Howrah, Salt Lake and New Town decided to implement it.
Bidhannagar police commissioner L N Meena told TOI on Thursday: “My officials came up with this concept. It seems to be the most effective solution for allaying commuter anxiety as the lockdown is eased in phases.” Dhritiman Sarkar, Bidhannagar DC (traffic), echoed: “We designed the low-cost H-shaped barriers made of polythene. Some tailors in Garia made the first set and we distributed them among the cabbies. Others taxi owners have started getting the barriers made.” The cost of a barrier is Rs 220.
App cab operators like Ola and Uber, too, expect a drop in ridership, knowing that many would prefer to use their own transport. “To reassure passengers, we are mandating the use of isolators in cabs to separate passengers from the driver,” Sarkar said. “No passenger is being allowed to sit in the co-driver seat. Only two passengers wearing masks are allowed to sit in the rear seat,” he said.
Prabir Das Mahapatra, secretary of the Progressive Taximen’s Union, said: “Around 400 cabs in Howrah, Kolkata and Salt Lake are already plying with these barriers. At the moment, 800 cabs are on the road. We are trying to have plastic shields in all vehicles.”
Autos, too, are using barriers. Pradip Saha, member of the Calcutta Autorickshaw Union, said, “Everyone will get barriers since it is a matter of self-protection. The drivers need to protect themselves, too.” But will it work in containing the Covid spread ? Environmentalist S M Ghosh said, “This is a very good step towards increasing confidence in the drivers as well as the passengers.” But pulmonologist A K Ghosh said, “There will still be some risks. The plastic barriers will hang loose. So there are chances of aerosol transmission.”
Source: Times of India