The experts have predicted a third wave of deadly COVID-19 in September-October. But who is worried? At least not the Bengalis. Lakhs of them thronged the public rallies of various parties during the campaigns for the election held in March-April and paved the way for a dangerous second wave. Now they are planning to span out all over India during the puja days, their favourite time of travelling.
But many states have imposed restrictions on people coming from outside of those states. Some states have issued a guideline that for entry in the state covid negative report is a must. It has forced a change of mind of Snehashis Kar, a resident of the Salt Lake area adjacent to Kolkata. He had plans to go to Himachal Pradesh but has changed his mind. Instead, he has decided to go to North Bengal, as there is no restriction on travel within the state.
Nilanjan Bose, the general secretary of Travel Agents Association of Bengal confirms the trend that most people are eyeing a trip within the state to avoid covid restrictions of other states. Rathin Basu, the owner of a travel agency says, “The maximum puja rush is for different destinations of North Bengal.” But, he adds, people are not waiting for puja. Even bookings for July-August are being done, and the number is increasing.
But it is not that people are not planning a trip to other states. According to Eastern Rail, various trains of North India have heavy demand for tickets. If the trend continues, booking for all the trains travelling to North and Western India will be full much before the puja. It happens every year. The situation was slightly different in last year as trains were limited in number.
The trend has brought a smile to the face of the tourism industry. Raju Kar, the owner of a resort in Darjeeling, laments the fact that due to the pandemic the hotel industry has suffered unimaginably. “Forget about the owners, the workers are jobless for more than a year,” he says. His small resort had twenty-two moderately paid regular workers, out of which only six are retained now.
But the plans of travelling are bringing tears to the eyes of the medical community. “The second wave has just now come down to manageable level,” says Dr Debasish Chatterjee, who is associated with a private hospital. “We need a little respite now. But if the people resort to such daringness, a deadly third wave will become inevitable.” A Health Department official of the state says they are ready for the third wave. He feels there is no mechanism that can keep the people homebound, and the next wave is inevitable.