With rules being relaxed, people return to city in droves; long queues at toll gates

K. Natesh, a software engineer who had returned to his native village near Udupi with his family days before the State government imposed a lockdown during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19, came back to the city on Thursday.

“As the cases started rising exponentially and there was shortage of beds and oxygen, I thought my village was safer. But as it turned out, several of my family members in the village contracted COVID-19. Now that the lockdown is being lifted, we have returned home,” he said.

The lockdown in Bengaluru will be partially relaxed from June 14, but people like Mr. Natesh who had left the city have started returning in droves over the last three days. The toll gates at various entry points have been seeing long queues.

“In the last three to four days, we have been seeing heavy traffic volume, several times more than what was there over the past one month,” said Abdul Mujeeb, who works at Nelamangala Toll Gate.

A senior police official from Bengaluru Rural district said long queues of vehicles were observed at all entry points into the city – Nelamangala, Attibele and Devanahalli.

Gayathri Vasudevan, CEO of Labour Net, said compared to last year, not many had left the city, but those who did are returning. “There are issues with transport, especially from North and Eastern India. But people from other districts are definitely coming back,” she said.

Sources in the construction industry also said labourers, from within the State especially from Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur and Vijayapura districts, who worked in Bengaluru were returning.

“We were working at a construction site in the city, but work stopped during the lockdown, forcing us to go back to Kalaburagi. We came back three days ago, since the mesthri called us saying work will restart from Monday,” said Mallamma, a construction labourer.

Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai also expressed concerns over the influx into the city on Friday.

“We have only brought in some relaxations in lockdown norms, not lifted it entirely. We need to continue to be careful to prevent the spread of the virus,” Mr. Bommai said.

Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, said it was natural that people were returning to the city as the lockdown was being relaxed. Responding to demands for mandatory testing of returnees, Mr. Gupta said it was administratively not possible to test everyone coming into the city. “But we are taking measures to increase testing at bus stands, railway stations and at places where migrant labourers are working, including construction sites. We are conducting over 70,000 tests every day, highest for any city today,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 4:59:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/with-rules-being-relaxed-people-return-to-city-in-droves-long-queues-at-toll-gates/article34801013.ece

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