Ghosts of stations past: Covid shock derails emblem of city’s overcrowding

Ghosts of stations past: Covid shock derails emblem of city’s overcrowding


Gurgaon: On the Yellow Line, one of the busiest Delhi Metro routes, the blur of fast-paced passengers has vanished. Every time a train halts, the platforms are strangely devoid of the usual chaos, cacophony and, notably, a crowd. At stations, the loop of pre-recorded announcements that seep into NCR’s collective subconscious has been replaced by messages of ‘social distancing’ and ‘sanitisation’.
“The silence is chilling,” says Rashika Singh, who travels from her home in Green Park to Golf Course Road for work. “It doesn’t feel like Delhi Metro. It’s like one of those days when there is a bandh in the entire NCR due to a protest or a public holiday. It’s a mixed feeling. I wanted to see the metro decongested, but not in this way.”
As the pandemic brought the region to a halt, it also drained the metro of its ridership. Earlier this month, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) resumed its services with the hope of an improved footfall, but three weeks on, it hasn’t seen too many takers. The nearly empty stations and fewer passengers, as well as the absence of vendors and auto-rickshaws outside stations suggest that normalcy may take some time to return.
At the five stations in Gurgaon, passengers are welcomed by closed entry gates, long detours to get to deserted platforms, and multiple layers of scanning and sanitisation.
Before the pandemic, an army of riders stood in line during rush hour to squeeze into arriving trains. They pushed and pulled to get into the cabins that managed to take in more passengers at every station. However, now, only a handful of passengers can be seen.
At the Guru Dronacharya metro station, one of the gates is open. A woman, waiting to conduct thermal screening, is busy on her mobile phone. She tells TOI, “It’s only during the mornings or evenings that we see some crowd, but it’s nowhere close to the chaos of pre-Covid times.”
She then directs the passengers — merely three or four — to a stall where a man is sanitising bags. Then there is a security check. A man then asks passengers to sanitise their hands. The entire process takes nearly 10 minutes before they finally reach the platform.
The scenes outside the stations echo the eerie silence inside. Outside IFFCO Chowk metro station, very few auto-rickshaws stand in wait for passengers. The taxi bay, which is usually encroached upon by vendors, now has enough space for pedestrians.
Vendors and other small traders say their sales are down by at least 30%.
Puran Kumar (21), from UP’s Badaun, who had left the city on a sugarcane stall-cum-motorbike in March, came back last week. He had to pay Rs 25,000 as the pending rent, but was hopeful that he would recover the money. But, that hasn’t happened yet. He fears he may have to approach a local moneylender to make both ends meet.
“I used to make Rs 3,000 a day, with a profit of up to Rs 1,500. Now, there’s no profit. There is no job back in my village either so I can’t even go back. One of my friends who has a stall at Huda City Centre is also facing a similar situation.”



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