The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) are planning a series of measures to be put in place when the Metro resumes operation.
People familiar with the matter had indicated on Monday that the government may allow the resumption of Metro services after over five months in September, when the fourth phase of a plan to restart businesses and activities restricted in view of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) kicks in.
Some of the measures planned by the DMRC includes the use of smart cards for contactless and cashless travel, thermal scanning at entry points, earmarking designated spots for passengers to stand while waiting for trains or at customer service counters, use of face masks among others. The use of Aarogya Setu mobile application is likely to be mandatory.
But the guidelines for operations will be finalised once the Union ministry of home affairs allow Metro operations and issue necessary guidelines. Anuj Dayal, executive director, corporate communication, DMRC, said, “We shall follow all guidelines set by the government in this regard.”
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is in charge of security at the transit stations, said that the basic arrangements are in place and they are ready to resume operations as and when directed.
With a majority of commercial activities being allowed in the city, people have been facing problems while commuting due to inadequate public transport and the restriction on the number of passengers who can travel in a public bus at a given point of time. With nearly six million passenger journeys daily, the Metro is the transport lifeline of Delhi and National Capital Region.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had recently urged the Centre to resume Metro in the national capital. Speaking at a webinar with traders last week, Kejriwal said, “People of Delhi have been requesting us to start metro services. 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 as of now. Delhi is a special case because we have the covid situation under control.”
From the moment a person enters the metro station to the end of the journey, there are a series of measures which DMRC and CISF have planned to ensure social distancing.
Movement in Metro
The travel time is likely to increase as the DMRC plans to increase the stoppage time at each station to ensure social distancing when passengers board or de-board a train. Also, crowding inside the train will not be allowed. The current stoppage time at each station is 10-20 seconds which Dayal said “will suitably be increased to ensure comfortable boarding/ deboarding”.
As per the measures announced by the DMRC in March this year, just days before the nationwide lockdown was announced, trains will skip crowded stations and its frequency will be altered. This was suggested to ensure social distancing. But the norms, which come into force from March 23, couldn’t be implemented as Metro operations were shut from March 22.
DMRC has put stickers on alternate seats in all its trains that have to be left vacant. It has also put markings on the floors at the platform and near customer service or ticketing counters so that people don’t crowd and maintain a distance of one meter. The temperature inside trains is likely to be maintained at 26 degrees Celsius.
The Metro also plans to conduct thermal scanning of passengers and wearing a mask will be mandatory within the station premises.
Even if the Centre allows Metro operations, the decision whether the interstate Metro movement will be allowed or not will be taken by the state governments of Delhi and neighbouring states. While there is no restriction on movement in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have lockdown during weekends.
Dayal said the DMRC will abide by the guidelines set by the government.
Frisking and security
An officer familiar with the arrangements, who wished not to be named, said as per the tentative protocol as of now, the number of entry and exit gates to be opened at each station will depend on the footfall.
“As precautionary measures, the moment a person enters the station a CISF personnel will check their temperature using a thermal scanner. Only those with normal temperature will be allowed access. The CISF personnel manning the door frame metal detectors will also mandatorily wear a face shield, face mask and gloves,” a senior CISF officer said.
Before their frisking, the passengers will be asked to take out all metallic items he’s carrying in his pockets, the officer said.
The CISF personnel have been directed to make sure the handheld metal detector shall not touch the passenger. Another officer said these protocols are tentative and subject to change as directed by the government.
Earlier this month the CISF staff posted in the DMRC unit had been directed to be prepared to resume services at a short notice. They had been asked by their seniors to mobilise force and ensure that metal detectors and other equipment such as X-ray scanners are kept at the ready.
Directions included ensuring the availability of enough face shields, gloves and other protective equipment as need be to enforce social distancing and safe frisking of passengers.
Experts voice concerns
While community medicine expert Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department at Safdarjung hospital, said that it is about time to start the services as people are facing inconvenience, other medical experts advise caution.
Dr Kishore said, “People are using their own vehicles which is causing air and sound pollution. People will use the Metro but should follow all the necessary precautions such as the use of face masks, social distancing, etc.”
Pointing to the rise in the number of cases and the positivity rate, some experts also called for deferring opening of Metro. “How will social distancing be ensured at stations? Currently, a lot of people from neighbouring areas are not able to come to Delhi as Metro operations are closed. Starting it would only allow more movement of people and increase the chances of infection,” said Dr PK Sharma, epidemiologist and former medical health officer with the New Delhi Municipal Council.
Dayal said, “Adequate manpower will be deployed to ensure the smooth resumption of services. Alternate seating will be allowed inside the trains. We would also request our passengers to cooperate with us and follow all social distancing norms while travelling.”
As per the second serological survey, 28% of Delhi’s population has been exposed to Covid-19. “This means that nearly 2/3 of the population is still unexposed. The positivity rate is already on a rise and if you create opportunities for people to mingle, then it will increase the chances of transmission of the infection,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at ICMR.
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