The passenger count of Metro Railway is on the rise with the resumption of tokens.
Also on the rise is the number of people without masks.
Visits to stations and multiple rides on Wednesday suggested that the enforcement of the mask mandate was limited to the good sense of individual passengers.
Majority of commuters wore a mask. But several did not. Most of them carried one but chose not to put it in the right place. At Kalighat station around 12.30pm, three women and a man were busy chatting. All of them had masks but none wore them properly.
The man was holding the mask in his hand. The women had them hanging from their chins.
As a New Garia-bound train entered the platform, a stream of people got off. One of them, a middle-aged man, had his mask hanging from his right ear. He was chewing a paan.
Some 30 minutes later, at Esplanade station, a group of four boys was waiting on the platform for Dum Dum-bound trains. Two of them were without a mask.
Their cricket kits suggested they were headed home from a practice session.
Around 6pm, two men were waiting for a New Garia-bound train on the platform of Maidan station. Both were fidgeting with their phones and neither wore a mask properly.
Multiple Metro passengers said they felt unsafe travelling with passengers without masks. Saradia Sengupta, a resident of Dum Dum in north Kolkata, who works at an office in the Minto Park area in the central business district, usually returns home by Metro from Rabindra Sadan.
“Yesterday, a man with his mask hanging from his chin stood beside me on the train. I asked him why he was not wearing the mask properly. He said he ran to get on the train and was panting. But he had boarded the train before me and did not seem tired at all,” said Sengupta.
Metro officials pleaded helplessness, saying the rise in the number of passengers made enforcement virtually impossible.
Before the tokens were introduced, only people with a smart card could take a Metro ride.
“It was easier to enforce the mask mandate because of comparatively fewer passengers. But keeping an eye on everyone is impossible now. Often, we pull up a passenger for not wearing a mask at the concourse gates. He wears the mask but opens it after boarding the train,” said an RPF officer.
Metro’s daily average passenger count has been surging towards 4 lakh. The footfall started to steadily climb since the resumption of tokens on November 25.
On Tuesday, the count stood at 3.78 lakh.
During the morning and evening rush hours, it is virtually impossible for a couple of RPF jawans stationed at two ends of a platform to keep an eye on everyone waiting to board a train.
“Some people still don’t realise the importance of masks. Such irresponsible passengers have always been there. But three months ago, their number was negligible since the total footfall was also on the lower side. With the footfall going up, the percentage of irresponsible passengers has also gone up. Their visibility has increased,” said a Metro official.
Manoj Joshi, general manager of Metro Railway, said: “We continuously monitor the stations. At the gates, people are not allowed without masks. But it is not always possible to enforce the mask mandate inside trains. People should also behave responsibly.”
“We will try to step up monitoring and make announcements more frequently, urging passengers to wear a mask,” he said.