Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: Putting an end to the confusion over the movement of buses during the extended lockdown period, Odisha government today announced that buses will be allowed to ply on both intra-district and inter-district routes in Green zones of the State. The bus services will, however, remain prohibited in Orange and Red zones, clarified Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena a day after guidelines for the 3rd phase of lockdown were issued.

As per the government orders, the buses in Green Zones will not be allowed to exceed 50% seat occupancy.

There are some other restrictions in place. The buses will ply exclusively within Green zones without passing through the Red or Orange territory.

This apart, plying of buses within Green Zones shall be subject to fulfilling other statutory requirements such as valid route permit, registration certificate, fitness certificate, pollution under control certificate, insurance, etc.

Earlier today, State Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera had informed that arrangements are being made to ensure movement of buses in COVID-19 green zones.

Speaking about the possibility of bus owners incurring a loss, Behera informed that the State government has taken steps to provide facilities to both private and other bus services.

"Bus owners have cited that they will incur heavy losses if they maintain 50% seat occupancy. Therefore, steps will be taken to ensure that bus owners don't incur losses. Arrangements are being made to provide the facility for them," said Behera.

Meanwhile, business activities and movement of people resumed mainly in green and orange zones of Odisha as the state government considerably relaxed the lockdown curbs on Monday.

The situation remained largely unchanged in the 'red zones' where roads wore a deserted look.

Sixteen districts are classified as 'green zones', while 11 are categorised as 'orange zones', and three districts- Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore and areas under the jurisdiction of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been declared 'red zones'.

The relaxations will not be applicable in the containment zones in rural and urban areas, according to an order issued by the Odisha government.

In Cuttack, a green zone, roads and streets were virtually empty till Sunday. However, many shops selling both essential and non-essential commodities opened today. Many vehicles, including four-wheelers, two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws were plying on the streets of the city, while several people chose to move around on bicycles.

Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) Commissioner Ananya Das said street vendors may also be allowed to carry out their day-to-day business but they will have to follow social distancing and other preventive measures.

Similar scenes were witnessed in the seaside pilgrim town of Puri, another green zone, where roads were agog with activities and increased traffic.

The state government allowed all industrial activities in rural areas. In urban areas, industrial activities are permitted only in the orange and green zones.

Reopening of factories manufacturing medicines, jute, IT hardware and packaging material is also permitted in the red zones with staggered shifts and employees maintaining social distancing. However, entrepreneurs are reportedly finding it difficult to resume operations due to manpower crunch.