KOLKATA: With the railways suspending passenger services till March 31, people rushing to return home were seen thronging bus depots in the city on Monday to beat the 5 pm deadline before a partial lockdown is imposed on West Bengal over Covid-19 threat.
Hundreds of passengers, mainly workers and labourers engaged in the construction sectors, were seen shoving each other to find a place in the few available buses, both public and private.
State transport secretary N S Nigam said buses have been provided to different districts for people waiting to get back home.
"We will ensure that these people get to reach their destinations," he told PTI.
Nigam also said that a skeletal fleet of buses will run on designated routes for those in need of immediate help or engaged in essential services, during the partial lockdown.
Passengers willing to board the buses will have to explain their need for travel.
"If you are on emergency duty, or you have some sort of emergency such as going to the hospital, we will be transporting you," he said.
At the Sealdah station, one of the two major railway termini serving Kolkata and Howrah, a man, who came to the city from Bongaon in North 24 Parganas for his wife's treatment, said he had no idea how to return, as trains were no longer available and the taxis charged him Rs 2,500.
Another man at the station, a worker at a construction site in New Town, said he was unaware of the fact that local trains have been cancelled.
The buses that left the Esplanade terminus during the day were choc-a-bloc with people, some seen sitting on the roof of the vehicles.
"These crowded vehicles are defeating the very purpose of the lockdown," said a conductor of one of the private buses headed for Murshidabad district.
Both Howrah and Sealdah stations wore a deserted look on Monday, with only freight trains in operation.
Eastern Railway spokesperson Nikhil Chakraborty said passengers who had booked tickets in advance should not crowd railway stations for refund.
The period for claiming refund has been extended till June 21, he said.
"All passenger trains, including mail/express, passenger and suburban EMU, stand cancelled till midnight of March 31. In order to ensure supply of essential items, freight operations will continue," Chakraborty added.