At 5.45 in the morning outside the ASTC bus stand in North Lakhimpur today where private bus operators park their vehicles, there is only one 31-seated bus waiting for passengers for Tezpur in Sonitpur district.
On any normal day, more than one dozen buses ply to Tezpur daily starting from 5.45 in the morning from the same spot in North Lakhimpur.
But due to the imposition of Covid restrictions, the number of buses is decreasing on this route. The Covid SOPs that in effect from May 5 allows only 50% of passengers of the total seat capacities and that is the main reason for the busses off the roads in Lakhimpur district.
Usually, the private buses charge Rs 400 per passenger from North Lakhimpur to Tezpur. But with the restrictions to have only 50% of the seat capacities, the bus operators are asking for Rs 800 per passengers for the same distance of the journey.
However, the passengers are not prepared to pay the increased fare while travelling on the bus. The same is the case of buses running on the Dibrugarh-Sivasagar-Jorhat route from North Lakhimpur.
Another reason for the drop in numbers of buses in the district is the 2 pm to 5 pm curfew for the Covid pandemic in which long-distance inter-district buses could not return to their starting points on the same day.
Many inter-district permit holder bus operators started services on the intra-district routes for that restriction. But the passenger’s reluctance in travelling with hiked fares has again forced the operators to stop these services also in the district.
Most of the operators have financial liabilities to banks for auto loans as well as to sustain the families of the drivers and other staff. This is only one common story of the local economy being hit by a pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Covid scenario continues to be grim in the Lakhimpur district with reports of 15 deaths till Friday evening. The number of Covid positive cases is increasing daily in the district totalling 1673 with 5 containment zones including Bholukaguri village in Dhakuwakhona on Friday.
So far 74, 285 vaccination were conducted for the first dose while 26, 853 for the second dose in the district. However, the biggest threat the district is facing is unreported cases.
There has been informed of symptomatic cases in every areas of the district yet very few have been reported or tested for confirmation. So far 49601 RAT tests were conducted since April 1 with 996 tests on Friday. These tests are less than 20% of the total population of Lakhimpur district.
On Friday state education minister Ronoj Pegu visited the Covid care centre at North Lakhimpur Civil Hospital and announced the induction of 16 beds with oxygen pipeline (MGPS) immediately. He also held talks with district administration and health officials on the Covid situation in Lakhimpur district.