From no mask to wearing it improperly, a large section of Delhi Metro commuters are flouting Covid norms inside trains and on station premises even as the DMRC said it is “adopting all necessary measures” to ensure adherence to the safety norms.
From north Delhi’s Kashmere Gate station, which has multiple interchange facilities, to the relatively smaller station of Jungpura in south Delhi, on-spot visits by PTI found several passengers without a mask. Some commuters even facetiously claimed that “Covid is over”.
Many passengers, not wearing a mask, were seen being allowed inside the station after being frisked by security personnel.
The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is tasked with the security of Delhi Metro premises and its personnel guard entry and exits as well.
A CISF personnel on duty at Kashmere Gate metro station admitted that many passengers were walking into the station’s premises, without wearing masks.
“Those who say they have forgotten to wear a mask, we suggest them to buy it from street vendors selling those for just Rs 5 outside the main entrance gate of the metro. But hardly anyone listens.
“We have heard that there have been scuffles with security personnel at other stations when they objected to the entry of people violating the Covid norm,” he said.
It is like people not wearing a helmet while riding two-wheelers even though it is for their safety, the CISF personnel said.
On Thursday afternoon, 10 to 12 passengers stood in a queue for frisking at a metro station and just one or two were wearing a mask. The scene was similar at other stations.
“We ask people entering metro stations to wear masks. Many passengers say that they have forgotten to carry a mask. Delhi Police teams or flying squads of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) can penalise the violators.
“At stations with high footfall, it becomes a bit difficult to disallow commuters who are not wearing a mask as it will lead to crowding outside stations. But at smaller stations, our personnel stop many commuters from entering if they are not wearing a mask,” a senior CISF official told PTI.
When PTI asked passengers at various metro stations why they were not wearing a mask, many said they were not carrying it while a few others said “Covid is over, why wear a mask”.
From a group of school children entering a metro station to a batch of ‘kanwariyas’ exiting it, a majority of these passengers were seen flouting the mask mandate on Thursday despite public announcements that “wearing masks is mandatory, inside Delhi Metro”.
Even the official Twitter handle of DMRC has a tagline in Hindi ‘Kripya Mask Pehne’ (please wear a mask).
“DMRC is adopting all necessary measures to ensure adherence to Covid protocols. Flying squads randomly check and ensure that people adhere to Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Hand sanitiser is also being provided. We are also requesting our passengers to cooperate with us in maintaining these protocols,” a senior official said.
“In June, 3,666 people were penalised for creating nuisance (under section 59 of the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002). This month, till July 14, over 2,190 passengers have been penalised under the same section,” he told PTI.
In line with the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) guidelines, police impose a fine of Rs 500 on people violating the mask mandate.
Also, since there were no provisions in the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002, to prosecute those violating the mask mandate, Delhi Metro imposes a penalty of Rs 200 on violators for ‘creating nuisance on metro premises.’ Doctors at leading hospitals here have often said that a “high degree of complacency” has set in among many people after three waves of the coronavirus pandemic.
“People are mentally fatigued and want to live life freely like in pre-Covid days. While it is important not to panic, one cannot throw caution to the wind,” said a senior doctor at a private facility here.