Gangtok, 04 May:
A day after allowing private vehicles to ply in the third phase of the lockdown, the State Government today issued fresh guidelines prohibiting the movement of private vehicles from 06 May onwards and allowing taxis starting 05 May, Tuesday. As things stand, private vehicles were allowed back only for two days.
With offices and shops reopening, the relaxation for taxis is being welcomed even as social-media was abuzz with confusion when word arrived that private vehicles were being disallowed.
The government explanation of not allowing private vehicles [which were to follow a complicated schedule anyways] since taxis were now available, while it may address the problem of congestion, does not explain how it helps combat the [nonexistent] COVID-19 situation in Sikkim.
Those who own vehicles complain that the latest regulation forces a less safe mode of travel on them. And they have a point. That said, this is what the latest rules on vehicular travel look like:
In an order issued late Monday evening, the State Government announced its decision to allow taxis to ply in the state from 06 May. The order states that taxis bearing registration number ending with odd digit will ply on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while those ending with even digit will ply on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. No taxis will ply on Sunday.
As per this rule, on Tuesday, all even numbered taxis can return to the roads.
Further, only 3 passengers will be allowed to travel in a local taxi [vans and cars] at a time with one passenger in the front seat and two at the back.
In contract carriages and luxury vehicles, five passengers can travel at a time with one in the front seat and two each in the back rows.
No passes will be required for commuters and taxis for movement within the district. All passengers and drivers will have to wear masks and strictly follow social distancing. Taxis should ensure that hand sanitizers are available in the vehicle.
Taxi syndicates, agents and taxi stands will not be allowed to operate.
In terms of inter-district movement of taxis, if passengers have passes issued by the DM/ADM/SDM the taxi will be allowed to ply from one district to another provided the return journey is made on the same day or on the day when movement is allowed as per odd-even rule. The taxi does not need passes if the passengers have passes.
On the other hand, the state government has decided to prohibit the movement of private vehicles “in view of availability of taxis”.
All orders/Notifications/permissions/passes issued in this regard shall cease to be operative with effect from 06 am of 06 May 2020, the order reads.
However, private vehicles will be allowed to play in cases of exigencies, medical emergencies, etc on the basis of single day pass issued by DM, ADM or SDM.
Movement of government vehicles of officers working in the Departmental Headquarters will be allowed only with passes issued by the Home Department, the order states. Movement of District/Field level officers will be permitted only on the basis of passes issued by the DMs.
The order also mentions that passes issued by the Health Department, Sikkim Police and Forest Department will continue to remain valid.