CHENNAI: Even as the state government announced a complete lockdown from June 19 in Chennai and parts of Chengalpattu, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts, the city borders were sealed on Tuesday itself.
Thousands of officegoers and daily wage workers from neighbouring districts who regularly commute to the city were not allowed into Chennai without e-passes. Motorists who were denied entry into the city picked up an argument with police personnel deployed at Nallur, Paranur and Sriperumbudur toll gates.
Many said they have been travelling from suburban areas without e-passes for nearly 30 days.
From June 1, private companies were permitted to operate with 50 percent of staff. Though Chennai is categorised as a different zone and e-passes were mandatory, until Tuesday the police were not strictly enforcing it and allowed officegoers and workers if they showed their identity cards.
Police and revenue officials blamed private companies for not adhering to lockdown guidelines due to which the city’s entry points witnessed sudden pile-ups of vehicles.
“Lockdown relaxations were announced with the precondition that only 50 percent of staff should be engaged, that too with transit passes. Barring a few IT companies, the majority of private company employees travel without e-passes,” said a revenue official.
“I was stopped at the Sriperumbudur toll gate asking for a transit pass. I have been travelling from Vellavedu and Ramapuram for the past one month,” said R Senthil, an employee of an engineering company.
“On Monday, I was denied entry at the Paranur toll gate to enter the city. My company asked me to apply for a pass and come to office in Ashok Nagar, but there was no option for individuals to apply for passes for travelling to office,’ rued another employee S Manju from a financial consulting company.
A senior official said, “All private companies should apply for e-passes for their employees, without which they will not be allowed to travel into Chennai. Those who engage in essential services such as media also have to obtain e-passes for crossing the city borders."