The Kolkata airport authorities are struggling to implement the mask mandate and officials said raising awareness among passengers was a better way than imposing fines on them to ensure compliance.
Since June 8, when the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) issued a directive for strict compliance of the Covid-19 protocol at the airports and inside aircraft, following a Delhi High Court order, the Kolkata airport authorities have rolled out a fine of Rs 100 for errant passengers.
Till Monday, only eight passengers have been fined by the authorities for not wearing a mask, said officials. According to them, more than 25,000 passengers depart from the airport every day on an average.
In Bengal, daily new Covid cases are continuing to rise. On Tuesday, June 14, the state recorded 135 new Covid cases and a positivity rate of 1.85 per cent.
One week back, on June 7, 61 new cases were detected and the positivity rate was 0.90 per cent.
Public health experts say wearing masks is an effective way to keep Covid at bay.
At the Kolkata airport, many passengers are not complying with the directive.
“Slapping fines on passengers is not our motive. We want to raise awareness among people and make them wear masks. So, we are continuing with the awareness drive,” said C. Pattabhi, director of the Kolkata airport.
Airport sources said shortage of personnel was a key constraint in implementing the DGCA directive. Boards announcing the directive have been set up at various places inside and outside the terminal.
The counter of a pharmacy chain at the terminal sells masks.
Airlines said they were asking passengers at the check-in counters and boarding gates to wear masks. “We are giving masks to those who are not carrying one,” said an official of an airline.
Despite all these measures, violation of the mask mandate is rampant at the airport.
A man travelling from Kolkata to Delhi on Monday said he saw many passengers inside the terminal without a mask.
“It is not only a problem in Kolkata, but at other airports as well. It is impossible to monitor thousands of passengers. Unless people are aware of their responsibility, the drive cannot be successful,” said an official at the Kolkata airport.
“Many passengers, when approached by officials, are saying they just had a meal and so were not wearing masks. Some are saying they had left home without a mask by mistake.”
The DGCA directive states if any flyer refuses to wear a mask on an aircraft even after repeated requests, the person can be treated as an unruly passenger and his or her name included on the no-fly list of airlines.
“Most passengers are abiding by the rules inside aircraft,” said an airline official.