Social distancing has gone for a toss in auto-rickshaws in the city. Most of the auto-rickshaws are seen overloaded with passengers for a greater part of the day and on many occasions, not just passengers, even drivers were seen without a face mask, which is mandatory.
Though RTC city buses have resumed in the city, many prefer to travel in auto-rickshaws. Lack of adequate number of RTC buses and confirmed seating are what they say as a reason for choosing the three-wheelers.
Several auto-rickshaws are seen carrying eight to 10 passengers in various routes on a sharing basis. Especially daily-wage labourers, construction workers and college students are being ferried in huge number on a share basis during peak hours. Ninety per cent of people prefer only share journey. In case of share journeys, we cannot run the show with just two or three persons. We will eventually end up in losses, said N. Raju, an auto-rickshaw driver from the city.
Another auto-rickshaw driver S. Murali said that COVID-19 lockdown has affected them a lot and they need to clear the debts. We clean our vehicles before coming onto the roads in the morning. We have to maintain a sanitiser and ask people to wear mask without fail while boarding the vehicle. But during peak hours, we cannot turn them away, he said.
K. Satyaprasad, who works at a supermarket in the city, boards an auto-rickshaw at Madhavadhara every day in the morning to Dwaraka Nagar and back home in the evening.
I prefer to travel in auto-rickshaws because we can have a seat first. However these days it seems to be risky with passengers not wearing masks and the vehicle being overcrowded sometimes. I had a heated argument with the driver once on the issue. He asked me to get down if I had problem, he added.
A senior police officer said that they have informed the auto-rickshaw drivers to adhere to COVID-19 norms for collective good. Drives were also conducted to ensure that all the drivers wear masks, he said.