Having experienced the uncertainty of a lockdown, thousands of families decided to leave Bengaluru – in cars, buses and vans – on Monday. Some major roads leading out of the city saw bumper-to-bumper traffic.
People started leaving after the Sunday curfew ended, leading to a pile up at the Nelamangala toll gate. In an attempt to ease traffic, the police allowed motorists to cross the toll plaza without paying the fees for some time.
People were carrying their household goods and even two-wheelers in vans. Private taxis who were going through a slump saw an increased demand almost overnight. Other key roads such as Mysuru Road, also increased vehicular movement.
Transport officials expect a similar rush during the first half of Tuesday before restrictions come into effect at 8 p.m.
KSRTC sees ridership as high as 32,000
On Monday, thousands of people gathered at major bus stands such as Majestic and Satellite stations on Mysuru Road. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated 1,100 buses from Bengaluru to other destinations meet the demand. “Last week, on an average we ran barely 350 to 400 buses from the city limits. However, on Monday for the entire day we received a demand for bus operations to various destinations such as Mysuru, Shivamogga, Davangere, Raichur, Hubballi and others,” said a KSRTC official. By Monday evening, around 32,000 people had left on KSRTC buses.
Initially, KSRTC estimated that 800-900 buses would be sufficient, but with demand for seats showing no signs of easing, they increased services. “We plan to operate more services on Tuesday also,” the official added. KSRTC will be operating 1,100 buses on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
On Monday, people were also seen waiting for buses at various bus stops. At Nelamangala toll gate, many people were stranded for hours as their attempt to catch inter-district KSRTC buses remained futile. As per the rule to maintain social distance, one bus can carry 30 people per bus, in most of the buses most of the seats were occupied in departure points itself.
“Unlike normal days, we cannot fill all the seats in a bus. We have to follow social distancing norms and only 30 people are allowed per bus. Moreover, we have to collect details of the passengers and do their temperature checks before allowing them to board,” said a KSRTC official. Seats for around 231 buses were booked online.
Workers head back home
Daily wage workers who had only just returned to the city are also going back home. Mahesh, a daily wage worker who hails from Davangere said: “After the lockdown was eased I came back to the city. Now, they are imposing the lockdown again. Leading a life without a revenue source is difficult in Bengaluru. I will come back once everything normalises, but I do not know when that will happen.”
With COVID-19 cases exploding, people from other parts of Karnataka and the country are also choosing to return home.
Shilpa G., who works for an IT company, said, “Earlier, we were asked by the company to work from home. Then, in between we were asked to come to the office for a few days a week. Now, the lockdown is being imposed again. There is so much uncertainty over whether it will continue or not, so I’m going back to my native place. I will work from there.”
Meanwhile, also included in the list of what will continue to function during the lockdown period are production units that require continuous process and their supply chains; industries dealing with essential goods like food processing, drugs, medical equipments, their raw materials and their intermediaries, manufacturing packing materials, industrial establishments with access control in SEZs, outside municipal limits and in Export Oriented Units and industrial townships adhering to national directives for COVID-19 management.