Government offices across Delhi, Kolkata and other cities, including those of the transport, tourism and excise departments and the sub-registrar, opened recently after over 40 days amid the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Talking about Delhi, a number of employees failed to reach their offices due to unavailability of public transport. Neighbouring cities have also sealed their borders with the national capital to contain the spread of the virus.
With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, Delhi is one of the worst-hit cities in India.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia, among other cabinet members, went to the Delhi Secretariat, a building that houses offices of several ministers and top bureaucrats.
General secretary of the Delhi Government Employees Welfare Association, Umesh Batra, claimed that a number of employees could not come due to restrictions on Delhi's borders.
"Several government employees could not attend their offices due to restrictions. Those having their own vehicles attended offices, but those who don't have vehicles faced difficulties in wake of suspension of public transport," News18 quoted Batra as saying.
Amid the lockdown, due to the unavailability of public transport, people have now begun questioning the government for urging employees to attend office despite knowing that transportation around cities have been suspended.
The Logical Indian spoke to some government employees across Delhi and Kolkata, who claim that their grievances are not being addressed.
Piyush (name changed), associated with the Lok Sabha Secretariat, says that despite public vehicles not operating, they are being forced to come to office. However, they are not being provided transportation facilities by the office either.
"It actually borders on harassment when the government itself has halted all the commercial public transportation services in the areas declared as red zones to combat the pandemic and at the same time, is insisting those in the government service with no personal transport of their own to come to work. Lockdown is not a vacation time for us since we can't move out. We are more than willing to get back to our normal lives if there's some transport facility arranged by our office to solve our mobility issues," he says.
"Even the notification issued with regard to staggered attendance during these times directing the employees to report to work is very diplomatically silent on how to reach work in the event of absence of any personal or public transport. Not every employee owns a personal vehicle," he adds.
Government employees pointed out that when the lockdown is an initiative by the government itself, asking employees to 'somehow' reach office is not fair. Their appeal to the government is to provide them with the necessary facilities, because expecting their attendance otherwise is not rational.
Piyush further explains that those who fail to reach office will have their leaves deducted from their leave account.
"It is irrational of them to expect us to reach work in the absence of any public and private transport. As per the directives of the Government, no two persons are allowed to ride a two-wheeler. However, it felt very unsettling and confusing for me when a senior of mine insisted that I 'arrange a two-wheeler from somewhere' and ride pillion on it just so that I can reach work, thereby asking me indirectly to flout the very rules and norms put in place by the Government to combat this outbreak," says Rohit (name changed), another individual associated with the Secretariat.
"While the concerned senior later admitted to acting 'under pressure from the higher-ups', I am appalled at their lack of understanding. People need to be sensitive towards each other in such extraordinary circumstances," he adds.
We spoke to employees of Syndicate Bank, Kolkata, who had similar stories to tell.
"I have a private vehicle and my husband usually drops me to work. I am one of the few privileged individuals in the office," says Trisha (name changed). "All we have been told is that we need to reach the office, but no one cares how. You will be shocked to know that some of my colleagues have to walk for two hours to reach the office, because if they don't, they have to face the wrath of the authorities."
"This is a situation that has left people helpless, yet most are afraid to speak up. This is happening across the country. No public transportation, no private vehicle, but you'll have to reach your office -- a problem that cannot be solved by even the people who are creating the circumstances," she adds.
Priya (name changed), another Syndicate Bank employee, says that her health is deteriorating due to the daily, unbearably tiresome travel.
"Walking for about two hours so often drains me out, and yet I do not have an option. While I know that the lockdown has been implemented in the best interests of the people and for our safety, we deserve solutions to problems as grave as this. But grievances are dismissed," she says.
An employee of another government office in Kolkata, who wished to keep both his name and that of his workplace anonymous, tells us that the kind of issues this situation is creating is easy to understand and solve, but authorities refuse to do either.
"All our demands, requests and grievances have fallen on deaf ears," he says.
"We are working for the government. Shouldn't the government be there for us during such trying and difficult times?" he questions.
While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India has almost reached the 50,000 mark, over 1,500 people have lost their lives to the pandemic, and more than 14,000 people have recovered.
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