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Covid-19: Mumbai witnesses chaos on Day 1 of unlock

As Mumbai slowly untangled itself from Covid-19 restrictions, crowded locals, occupied by too many unauthorised travellers, and clogged roads marked Day 1 of Unlock on Monday. Spells of heavy showers in many areas amid the forecast of a good monsoon added to the chaos, giving a glimpse of life during the rainy days ahead. While shops and hotels did not seem to be in a hurry for business,  roadside food vendors returned with gusto.

In many places, the western suburbs didn’t look any different from the pre-pandemic days. Pic/Rane Ashish

The relaxation of curbs till 4 pm did not sit well with the hotel industry as many bars and restaurants, lounge bars, fine dining places remained shut. Their association said that a few hotels chose to reopen on Day 1 of Unlock.

Shivanand Shetty of restaurant body AHAR said, “This decision does not help our business at all and thus many have chosen to remain shut. Our actual business starts in the evening and restaurants do not want to bear the cost of opening and calling the staff if the revenue is going to be just 10 to 20 per cent of what we generally earn in a full day. Hardly 20 to 25 per cent of the restaurants opened on Monday and those managed to do a fair business are in office areas.”

A barber at work at Thakur Village, Kandivli, on Monday. Pic/Satej Shinde

Trader bodies stressed that the non-essential services staff must be given the vaccine. Viren Shah of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association or FRTWA said, “We welcomed this decision as it allowed us two hours more and without any alternate day restriction, but we want our staff to be vaccinated as we will be in direct contact with customers. For our and their safety, we want vaccination.”

Also Red: Light to moderate rain to continue in Mumbai for 48-72 hours: IMD

Though spas and salons opened to a lull day, they hope more and more customers will trickle in soon. 

Despite clear guidelines on the Unlock, many shops dealing in non-essential products did not open. A few opened in the morning, but shut around 2pm, two hours before their closing time.

A non-essential shop in Borivli on Day 1 of Unlock. Pic/Satej Shinde

“It did not really seem like unlocking as many shops selling non-essential items were closed,” said Saili Raut, a resident of IC Colony. Rupesh Shah, who runs Jalaram Provision Stores in Eksar area, said, “It is just the day one of unlocking. Many non-essential shop owners will join in a day or two as they see customer demand.” 

However, several hawkers and street food vendors, including chaatwalas and juice sellers, were seen in Andheri, Bandra West, Kalanagar, Khar and Santacruz. A greater number of food stalls on the street were seen functioning till evening, though for takeaway, a large crowd was seen outside popular joints which opened after a long time in Borivali areas as well.

Road to despair

The Western Express Highway returned to its usual avatar of crawling traffic around 10.30 am on Monday. Stretches near Jogeshwari and Behram Baug, heading towards the highway, and part of WEH opposite the airport were jam-packed, particularly after some areas received heavy showers. At certain points, vehicles heading for Kandivli and Borivli got delayed 25-35 minutes. 

Workers get ready to receive customers at a restaurant in Matunga. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Too many unauthorised travellers on trains

With government offices told to operate at full capacity, the number of local train commuters rose significantly on Day 1, but it was unauthorised travellers who added to chaos. A whole lot of passengers were seen travelling during non-office hours also. There were long queues outside railway ticket counters and many found their ways directly to the platform, taking advantage of less vigilance at entry points.

“I work at Goregaon shop. There are long queues for buses and the western express highway is jam-packed every day. How can I travel by road? So I somehow managed to get a railway pass,” said a passenger from Mira Road, requesting anonymity. 

“As the state government allowed private offices to operate with 50 per cent staff do they have a plan of travelling for half a crore population without local services? I am worried about road travelling as I have had the experience of travelling during the unlock after the first wave,” said Yogesh Ghanekar, an employee with a private firm at Reay Road. 

Another non-essential shop in Dadar on first day of Unlock. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

All fine: railways

The Central and Western railways denied that there was excessive crowding on trains and the situation was manageable. “Passenger increase was low as earlier also we were running at nearly full capacity. But still we opened 12 extra counters. The queue length will be observed at ground level in real-time and an appropriate decision will be taken,” said a CR spokesperson. This takes the total number of ticket counters to 228 at 83 stations on CR network. “We will monitor the crowd and take action if any more ticket windows need to be opened,” a WR spokesperson said.

Inputs from Rohit Parikh

4 PM
Time till when shops have been allowed to operate


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