Chandigarh, August 2: The Haryana government on Sunday said there will be no free travel facility for women in state roadways buses on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan this year in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government's decision, which came on the eve of Raksha Bandhan, drew criticism from senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda. He said instead of using the pandemic as an excuse, the government should run more buses to ensure social distancing. Also Read | Pakistan's News Channel Dawn Hacked, Indian Flag With Happy Independence Day Message Surfaces on Screen (Watch Video).

"The free (travel) service has been discontinued (for women) on Monday this time in view of the COVID-19 situation as a limited number of people are allowed to travel in a bus," Haryana Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma said. "In a 52-seater bus, only 30 passengers are allowed to travel," he said. Also Read | West Bengal Reports 2,739 New COVID-19 Cases And 49 Deaths in Past 24 Hours: Live News Breaking And Coronavirus Updates on August 2, 2020.

Sharma also appealed to people to maintain social distancing, wear face masks and sanitise their hands before boarding the buses. Hitting out at the government over the decision, Hooda alleged it will put undue burden on a large number of families facing financial distress due to months of lockdown and an economic slowdown in the country.

"This will be the first time in 14 years that the government will collect fare from women on Raksha Bandhan. Our government started this free bus service giving women of the state a gift on Raksha Bandhan," the former Haryana chief minister said.

He said the government should reconsider its decision. Hooda said the government should not give the excuse of COVID-19 to discontinue the free travel service on Raksha Bandhan and instead run more buses to avoid crowding and ensure social distancing and safety of women who will visit their brothers.

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