CHENNAI: Even as the Union government had informed the Supreme Court that no one will be forced to take Covid-19 vaccine, those who had not received vaccines were allegedly deboarded from buses in Vellore district, and taken for vaccination. While officially there was no announcement over the requirement of vaccination for bus travel, the district authorities have been forcing it, alleged commuters.
Following an order from District Collector, P Kumaravel Pandian, a few days ago, motor vehicle inspectors allegedly deboarded commuters who did not get vaccinated from buses bound to Polur, Jamunamarathur, and Bagayam at the Vellore old bus stand. The travellers were then told to take vaccines from a camp that was organised at the bus stand for them to continue travel.
While officials from the Villupuram division of TNSTC clarified that vaccination was never a precondition, the district administration has blamed low-mask compliance for its decision. S Joseph Diaz, MD of TNSTC (Villupuram), said, “If any commuter has been denied bus service in Vellore, we will look into it.”
However, the Collector clarified that none of the non-vaccinated commuters were denied bus service. “In several buses, over 70 per cent of commuters were found travelling without masks. We also penalised the crew at many places. Besides insisting on wearing masks, we have decided to ask commuters to get vaccinated at camps. None can be denied bus service for not taking vaccinates,” he said. Meanwhile, a section of commuters rued that deboarding them minutes before commencing the journey is an indirect tactic to impose vaccines.
S Ramakrishnan of Katpadi said, “Last month, there were clear instructions that non-vaccinated tourists will not be allowed into Ooty, Kodaikanal, and a few other places. If similar restrictions are announced here well in advance, commuters will have an option to choose. But throwing people out of buses is unacceptable.”
Legal experts opined that collectors are fully empowered to impose any restrictions under the Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act. Justice K Chandru, former Madras HC judge, said, “It is as valid as all other Covid-related restrictions,” he said.