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Delhi Metro to allow only 1/4th of pre-Covid crowd: DMRC Chief

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New Delhi, Sep 9 : With lifeline of the national capital region, the Delhi Metro, resuming its service after a hiatus of more than five-and-a-half-months, Managing Director of DMRC, Mangu Singh, spoke about the challenges faced in the first two days of resumption, measures in place to ensure safety of commuters, crowd control, penalties, among other issues.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chief in an exclusive chat with IANS said that the Metro will not be able to accommodate more than 12-15 lakh people daily, as against its pre-Covid figures of 60 lakh.

He emphasized that entry points will be temporarily closed if the crowd becomes unmanageable and people’s smart cards will also be blocked in case precautionary measures are not followed during the trip.

Here are the Excerpts:
Q: In the last two days, what major challenges did you face?

A: We were ready for much bigger challenges and were expecting that there would be a lot of crowd and ensuring the social distancing norm would be very difficult. But, the first two days have been satisfactory. There was no violation of social distancing norms or people not wearing masks and the ridership was also not huge. Things are flowing easily, nothing too unusual.

Q: How are you going to accommodate and manage the crowd if it peaks in the coming days?

A: Yes, we think the crowding issue will surface in the next few days and we are expecting more and more people. Before the lockdown, we were carrying 250-300 people per compartment during the peak hours. Now, we will be carrying only 50. Capacity to carry people has been reduced. We, certainly, cannot handle people more than that.

We cannot carry 60 lakh people daily anymore. For us, anything more than 12-15 lakhs per day when the entire network is opened will be unmanageable. That is why we have been requesting people to only step out when required.

Q: What steps will be taken to manage a huge crowd?

A: We have decided not to open all the gates to ensure that the crowd is controlled. We will ensure that more people do not enter the stations. If we realize we cannot manage, we will close the entry points for the public, in a bid to restrict their entry.

If people step out during peak hours, they will suffer on their own account, the gate will remain closed and they will have to wait outside. They will have to weigh their options.

Q: With DMRC increasing the dwelling time at each station and also to sanitize the trains at the terminal stations, the frequency of trains is likely to drop. Will this further result in an increase in crowding at the stations?

A: There are several things which go contradictory to each other. The exercise of opening of gates for fresh air to gush in and sanitisation is also necessary. To some extent maybe the entire running time in the corridor will increase by 10 per cent.

Q: As DMRC pressed on the need to talk less and wear masks in the Metro, who will ensure that it is followed? Has a person been deployed inside the coaches to keep an eye on this?

A: We expect that the metro travelers are relatively more educated and sensible. So, we will keep on educating and requesting them to follow the norms. If need be, our volunteers will ask them to get down and go out of the metro station. Besides this, it is very difficult to do policing. We will have people inside the station, but not inside every train and coach. This is just impractical. We have CCTV cameras in many trains and will be monitoring through that.

Q: What deterrence have been put in place to ensure people who violate the precautionary norms are punished?

A: Our first attempt will be to appeal to people to follow the rules and not penalize them. We believe that people are educated and sensible. But, if the situation comes, people will be asked to go out of the station. More than that, we can block their smart card for five to 10 days. Lodging FIR is impractical.

Q: How often will the DRMC staff be checked for the coronavirus infection?

A: We had sought the antigen kits from the authorities, and they have arrived. Checking the staff members will be a regular exercise. If the staff member is tested today, their turn will come again after 15 days. If they test positive, the Central government’s protocol will be followed, people will be isolated, and stations will be thoroughly sanitized.

Q: Do you think it was a right decision to resume the metro at a time coronavirus cases in the national capital region are peaking?

A: We are not experts in this field and not a body to take a call on resumption. Authorities have decided to open it and it is their call. Studies have been done abroad to establish that public transport does not result in spread of infection. Metros have been plying in many countries. We believe that our system will not contribute to the infection.

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Delhi schools to reopen today after 10 months , parents still hesitant

Schools have also been directed not to hold assemblies and physical outdoor activities.

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New Delhi, Jan 18: After being closed for nearly 10 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools in Delhi are set to reopen from Monday for students of Classes 10 and 12. However, parents are still in a quandary whether to allow their wards to attend.

The Delhi government has decided to reopen schools, shut since the first 21 day nationwide lockdown was imposed in March, 2020, in the view of the upcoming CBSE board exams.

Schools that reopen will have to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) issued in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, including social distancing, compulsory mask wearing and sanitisation and others.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in a tweet on Sunday, said: “Had a review meeting with senior Education Dept officials. Everyone is excited and a little nervous at having Class 10& 12 students back in schools from tmrw for practical/counselling. All preparations-sanitizers, masks, social distancing measures- are in place. Good luck to all!”

The Directorate of Education has made it clear that students can come to school only if their parents allow it, and the school administration cannot compel physical attendance of their students.

However, parents spoke to IANS were not sure if they would send their children to schools from Monday onwards.

“It’s not only me but most parents have made a unanimous consent not to send their children to school in this situation. As we all are aware that Covid-19 is still with us and our children can get affected. I can’t say all parents have the same thought but, yes, all are concerned about safety of their children,” said the mother of a Class 12 student in the Andhra Education Society School, ITO.

Sources told IANS that the schools administrations in Delhi have sought parents’ consent through an ‘NOC for offline classes’.

A letter issued by Preet Public School in Preet Vihar read: “As per the order of Delhi government, the school may start the offline classes for practical, doubt session, assignment activities related to CBSE examination 2021. The school will follow the SOP guidelines in respect of Covid-19 issued by MHA, Govt. of India.”

In the letter, parents have been asked to submit their consent in writing. Parents have to ensure that their children will wear face masks, carry hand sanitiser and maintain social distancing. Parents also have to ensure that there is no history of Covid-19 infection in their families.

“It has been over a week since we (parents) have been debating whether to send our children to school or not. See, practical classes are very important in view of exams preparation. If I talk about my own daughter, who is in Class 10, she has completed almost all the syllabus but practical classes are also important. I know, it is about the future of my daughter but, I would wait at least one week to see if school is fully safe from Covid-19,” said a mother of a Preet Public School student.

The Directorate of Education had earlier made it clear that physical attendance is not compulsory and students will attend schools only with the consent of parents. It had also said that only schools outside the containment zones will be allowed to reopen and teachers and school staff living in such areas will not be allowed to attend schools.

Schools have also been directed not to hold assemblies and physical outdoor activities.

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Cold wave conditions persist in north India

Meanwhile, the Met officials said that fog reduced visibility early in the morning at most places in the two states.

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New Delhi, Jan 17 : Parts of north India remained under the grip of an intense cold wave on Sunday with night temperatures dropping below the 5 degrees Celsius-mark at some places and dense fog enveloping several areas.

The minimum temperature in Delhi dropped to 5.7 degrees Celsius but it is likely to rise over the next two days due to a change in the wind direction, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The national capital will see shallow fog on Monday morning and light rain is likely to occur, the IMD said. The city’s minimum and maximum temperatures are expected to settle around 8 and 17 degrees Celsius.

An IMD official said easterly winds are blowing in Delhi that are not as cold as northwesterly winds coming in from the snow-clad western Himalayas.

Hence, the minimum temperature is likely to rise by a few notches over the next two days.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) improved slightly to the ‘very poor’ category from ‘severe’ on Saturday as favourable wind speed helped in dispersion of pollutants.

The city’s AQI was 329 at 8.30 pm on Sunday. The 24-hour average AQI was 407 on Saturday, 460 on Friday, 429 on Thursday, and 354 on Wednesday.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, and 401 and 500 ‘severe’.

Intense cold wave conditions persisted in Kashmir, even as the minimum temperatures increased marginally across the valley.

The meteorological department said a western disturbance is likely to affect Jammu and Kashmir for a few days starting January 22, bringing snowfall and rain to the union territory.

The night temperature in Kashmir improved slightly but remained several notches below the freezing point, a Met department official said.

Srinagar city — the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir — recorded a low of minus 7.6 degrees Celsius, up from minus 8.2 degrees Celsius the previous night, he said.

Pahalgam, which also serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra in south Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 8.7 degrees Celsius, up from the previous night’s minus 9.4 degrees Celsius.

Qazigund was the coldest place in Jammu and Kashmir with a minimum temperature of minus 9 degrees Celsius, the official said.

The intense cold wave in Kashmir has resulted in the freezing of water supply lines in several areas. A thick layer of ice has covered several roads, making it difficult for motorists to drive.

Several water bodies, including the famous Dal Lake, have also frozen. The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and river police are conducting patrolling around the frozen water bodies to ensure the safety of people.

Parts of Uttar Pradesh witnessed dense fog and cold day to severe cold day conditions prevailed at isolated places.

Churk in Sonbhadra district was the coldest place in the state with a minimum temperature of 4.6 degrees Celsius, it said.

Agra recorded a low of 6.3 degrees Celsius, followed by 6.6 degrees Celsius in Kanpur and 8.7 degrees Celsius in Jhansi.

The weather department said dense to very dense fog is very likely to occur in the morning at a few places in the state on Monday and cold day conditions are also very likely to prevail at isolated places over the state, it said.

Weather is most likely to remain dry in the state. Shallow to moderate fog is very likely to occur at isolated places over the state on Tuesday and Wednesday, it added.

Cold weather conditions continued to persist at many places in Haryana and Punjab with temperatures hovering below the normal limits.

According to the Met department, Narnaul in Haryana reeled under intense cold, recording a low of 2.5 degrees Celsius, three notches below normal limits.

Hisar, too, experienced a cold night at 3.4 degrees Celsius, down four notches, while Sirsa, Bhiwani and Rohtak registered below normal minimums at 4 degrees Celsius, 4.7 degrees, and 5.6 degrees respectively.

In Punjab, Bathinda recorded below normal minimum at 3.4 degrees, while Faridkot and Gurdaspur, too, recorded below normal lows at 5.5 degrees and 7 degrees Celsius respectively.

Chandigarh, the common capital of the two states, recorded a low of 8.3 degrees Celsius.

During the past few days, maximum temperatures, too, have been hovering 6-10 notches below normal at most places in the two states and Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, the Met officials said that fog reduced visibility early in the morning at most places in the two states.

In Rajasthan, night temperatures dipped by a few degrees in parts and Pilani was the coldest place recording a temperature of .4 degrees Celsius followed by Churu which shivered at 1.9 degrees.

Dense fog also engulfed many parts of the state.

Ganganagar, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Alwar, Bundi and Dabok recorded 2.5, 6.1, 6.3, 7.4, 9.6 and 10 degrees respectively.

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‘Corrupt officials, leaders involved in IndiGo manager’s murder’

“Five days since the incident, there is no headway into the investigation of Rupesh Singh’s murder and it indicates a nexus of corrupt officials, leaders and land, sand and liquor mafia,” Yadav said.

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Four-time Lok Sabha MP and Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) President Pappu Yadav has levelled sensational allegations on the nexus of corrupt officials, politicians and mafia in Bihar who may be involved in the murder of IndiGo Airlines manager Rupesh Kumar Singh.

“Five days since the incident, there is no headway into the investigation of Rupesh Singh’s murder and it indicates a nexus of corrupt officials, leaders and land, sand and liquor mafia,” Yadav said.

“As per our information, Rupesh Singh was reportedly involved in tenders of Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) and electricity departments. He was part of a company which managed to obtain a licence for a canal in Darbhanga. These could be the reasons behind his murder on the orders of unknown nexus in Bihar,” Yadav added.

“The matter needs to be investigated thoroughly by an independent agency monitored by a sitting judge of the high court,” Yadav said.

He said if the Bihar government wants to make the state crime-free, it should identify persons involved in land, sand and liquor mafia and their properties should be recommended for investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.

“They are by and large involved in criminal incidents in Bihar and are shielded by political leaders and officials,” he said.

He said the annual income of the Nitish Kumar-led government through liquor revenue was Rs 4,000 crore before a blanket ban was implemented in the state in 2016. Now corrupt officials and leaders are earning double the income through it.

Yadav also levelled allegations on two senior IAS officers holding posts as Principal Secretary and District Magistrate (DM), respectively. He said the former was the CMD of Bihar State Power Holding Corporation Ltd (BSPHCL) in 2018 and had sent five non-qualified women to foreign countries for training on state government’s expenses. While the latter had given arms licences to 70 persons having criminal records when he was the Katihar DM. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry is currently underway against him and he is on leave right now.

“We request Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to recommend to the Centre for their termination from their posts,” he said.

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