Letters to the Editor: Implement measures to rationalise public travelling under ‘New Normal’
In the light of the President’s clarion call to public sector employees to leave behind the two year ‘COVID’ related set-backs and get ready to work with renewed energy, under ‘New- Normals’, it is imperative that we find more short, medium and long term solutions to make people stronger in facing the difficult periods ahead and arrest future un-economical ‘Lock-downs’. The health authorities have noted that, the limited success of the last poorly observed ‘Lock Down’ was mainly due to the stoppage/curtailment of Public transport via buses and Trains.
However, as we know, without an efficient public transport system, the country cannot get back on its feet! Therefore, it has become necessary to rationalise public travelling in such a way that life becomes easier and more productive for office workers and school children while reducing the incidence of infection via public transport between Districts/Provinces.
My suggested steps towards meeting the said ends were published in the press and copies were sent to the authorities last year. As the ‘COVID’ challenge has now escalated into a perennial problem, I wish to reiterate the following long-term simple, cost saving, mitigating steps for implementation as practically as possible, after explaining to and convincing the respective Trade Unions, employers, school authorities and the parents of the dire long-term need for adopting ‘New-Normals’ in office and schooling lifestyles.
1) As far as possible, deploy them in their respective offices located closest to their residences within the District/Province. The transfer policies have to be duly amended if necessary. The resulting, reduction in inter- District /Province travel will reduce traffic congestion and overloading while making ‘Contact tracing’ and monitoring easier for mitigating the incidence of ‘Community transmission’.
Additionally, the employees will save time, energy and money while getting the opportunity to engage in better family life and other part time earning activities such as cultivation and Teaching.
2) Implement flex-hours for both Public and private sector workers. This step, too, will reduce rush hour traffic, ‘over-loading’ and traffic congestion resulting in fuel saving, better Time Management and higher productivity.
3) Expand current arrangements for ‘Working from Home’ by embracing technology and giving targets/assignments etc. Also, the present arrangement for workers to report for work on alternate days can be continued as desirable. These steps again will improve productivity of staff while reducing over-loading and traffic congestion. We must not forget that Sri Lanka’s burgeoning Public sector exceeding 1.4 million employees, works out to one employee per 15 people in a total population estimated at 21.5 million. It is learnt that in many other countries the corresponding figure is above 250!
4) Make train/bus season tickets available on-line or for purchase at designated supermarkets/shops as in other countries so that the work load and the health risk of the conductor/ticket collector can be drastically reduced. In many countries the issue of tickets is handled by the driver him/her self.
5) Factories/Public/Private Sector Institutions can be induced with incentives to provide van/bus transport to their employees wherever possible.
When the above steps are implemented, the transport sector, with their existing moveable assets and rolling stock, would be in a position to deliver a more satisfactory service to the commuters and also save foreign exchange spent on fuel.
1) The elusive policy requirement to send children to schools in their locality, if implemented from next year will surely reduce traffic congestion on the main roads when the schools re-start. The present fashionable practice of sending children in the Western Province to ‘Colombo schools’ is a matter of concern as it has become a major facilitator of traffic congestion on Colombo roads on school days.
With the implementation of the said policy, the school bus/van service can be confined to the locality and the pervasive need for parents to drop their children at school before leaving to office will also become redundant. The parents/children will face lesser travelling risks and save travelling time and money which can be spent on studies, homework and extra-curricular activities.
2) The schools also should adjust their opening times in keeping with the flex-office hours of the Public/Private Sector in the areas.
Let us avail of these ‘blessings in disguise’ that have come to our door step, in the wake of the ‘Corona Pandemic’. I am confident that the President and the Prime Minister who possess the much required ‘political will’ would implement these hitherto elusive but important measures which surely will reduce the necessity for ‘Lock-downs’ and ‘Curfews’ and improve our Security, productivity and discipline leading to a prosperous Sri Lanka.
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