Fifty six days after the lockdown was clamped in Karnataka, the state started limping back to normalcy, with autorickshaws, cabs and buses plying on the roads, adhering to the new norms issued by the government after easing of restrictions.
After remaining in confinement for nearly two months, drivers of taxis, buses and autorickshaws poured on to the roads with their vehicles, but with caution.
The Karnataka government had on Monday announced easing of restrictions, allowing buses, autos and cabs to operate in the state with strict guidelines that drivers have to compulsorily wear masks and use hand sanitisers.
It also specified the number of passengers to travel in these vehicles. There were however, problems galore all over. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) ran 1,500 buses on the first day in the state capital after the restrictions were relaxed.
However, instead of issuing travel tickets, the BMTC started issuing daily, weekly and monthly passes. A public relations officer of BMTC told PTI, "We are encouraging only long distance travel within the city instead of issuing tickets from one bus stop to another.
Only those who are in need to visit from one place to another will travel." He said only 20 people were allowed inside buses and the travellers were encouraged to use the QR codes put up inside, to make cashless payments.
The Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV), a union of bus passengers, opposed the BMTC compelling people to buy passes and not tickets from one destination to another. Most of the city buses ran almost empty.
The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had to confront an unprecedented situation as there was commotion at bus stands in various parts of the state due to the mad rush of passengers.
Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who is in charge of the transport department, admitted that there were some shortcomings in the arrangements.
He was however, confident that things would improve from Wednesday.
The KSRTC later said in a statement that it had initially planned to run 1,500 buses, but operated 1,606 buses, which ferried 53,506 passengers.
From Bengaluru alone, 213 buses were operated, carrying about 6,000 passengers to different parts of the state.
The corporation appealed to the passengers to book online tickets to avoid overcrowding at bus stations and also waiting in long queues.
Autorickshaw drivers across the state found very few passengers willing to take a ride due to the COVID-19 scare. "We have resumed services, but not many people are willing to travel in autorickshaws.
We have been asked by the government to spray disinfectants on the vehicles before and after every commercial trip, but where will we get such a spray?.
The government has to fund us, otherwise we will not survive," Manju,an autorickshaw driver in Bengaluru, told PTI. According to him, most of the drivers allowed only one person and some put up a board between them and the passenger to avoid any contact.
In Mysuru, buses and autorickshaws had few passengers, whereas the inter-district buses, especially those to Bengaluru, were full. In Hubballi-Dharwad, businesses resumed with full strength as the restrictions were eased.
All the shops were open, but the usual crowd was missing. Autorickshaws, city and inter-district buses operated to full capacity.
In Belagavi in north Karnataka adjoining Maharashtra, there was less movement of buses and autorickshaws on the roads, though the shops were open. People preferred to travel in their own vehicles.