Workers return to more order in Little India

Workers return to more order in Little India
Foreign Workers wait to board shuttle buses

SINGAPORE - Foreign workers returned to a more fortified Little India yesterday, two weeks after the riots, as private bus services to the area resumed, albeit at half the usual strength.

The Sunday evening scene was far more orderly than usual, after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) imposed new queueing arrangements at the bus pick-up points.

The calm in the Indian enclave was helped by a far smaller crowd, with bus operators estimating only 20 to 40 per cent of the usual foreign worker population.

Many continued to stay away, dissuaded by a strong police presence, said workers, as plainclothes and uniformed police officers patrolled the area.

The lure of Little India was also dimmed by the ban on consuming alcohol in public, even though restrictions on sales have been relaxed.

The reduced crowd gave workers more space, aided by new barriers along Hampshire Road which blocked off one traffic lane.

Previously, they were squeezed on the sidewalk.

Cars were not allowed to enter from Kampong Java Road, and the barriers were used to stagger queues to various dormitories.

Said Singapore School and Private Hire Bus Owners' Association president Neo Tiam Beng: "It was very messy last time, like a market. It's more orderly now."

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told The Straits Times that more improvements will be made.

He hopes to create more space along Hampshire Road so workers can queue up properly, possibly under shelter, and to allow buses to overtake on Hampshire Road.

In Tekka Lane, the LTA cut away part of a kerb to reverse the direction of buses picking up workers.

Long queues of workers snaked around the area, as controllers from the Singapore School Transport Association fielded questions from workers wondering which queue to join.

Xing Sheng Transport Services owner Lim Yong Long, 55, said not all workers were aware that bus services had resumed after last week's suspension.

Bus timekeeper Wendy Lim said she had to wait for nearly two hours before workers filled up a bus at a Toh Guan dormitory.

Supervisors said they had discouraged their workers from heading to Little India.

Dormitories, too, had planned special activities to keep the workers occupied for the weekend.

The last bus ferrying foreign workers back to their dormitories was slated to leave at 9pm last night, two hours earlier than the usual 11pm.

Construction worker Sathish P, 29, was still having his dinner at 9.15pm.

He said: "I didn't know the buses stopped at 9pm, nobody told me."

Buses continued ferrying workers after 9pm, though LTA staff and police officers stopped workers from joining the queue.

Separately, some 200 foreign workers present in the area during the Little India riot received police advisories at the Police Cantonment Complex yesterday.

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