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Amid the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, a 30-year-old Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) jawan hitchhiked 1,100 km to reach his village in Uttar Pradesh after his mother's death.
Santosh Yadav, a resident of a village near Mirzapur, travelled on goods trains, trucks and a riverboat for three days to reach his home.
"I just wanted to reach my village Sikhar after I learnt of her death. Both my younger brother and a married sister live in Mumbai and it was not possible for them to reach the village due to the lockdown," NDTV quoted Yadav as telling PTI.
"I could not leave my father alone in such a situation", he added. Yadav, who joined the CAF in 2009 and is deployed in its 15th battalion, got a call from his father on April 4 and was told that his mother's condition had deteriorated. The next day, she was admitted to a hospital in Varanasi but she died in the evening.
"I just wanted to make it to the state capital Raipur from where I was confident of arranging something for the further journey," Yadav said.
He embarked on the long journey to his home after receiving the relieving letter from the commandant on April 7. He first took a lift on a paddy laden truck from Bijapur to reach Jagdalpur, where he waited for around two hours before boarding a mini truck which dropped him in Kondagaon, around 200 km from Raipur.
"In Kondagaon, I was stopped by police personnel but I explained my situation to them. Luckily an official deployed there was familiar to me and helped me in my travel up to Raipur in a vehicle carrying medicines," he said.
"From Raipur, I boarded a goods train with the help of a friend posted in the Railway Protection Force (RPF). Then, I changed at least eight goods trains to reach Chunar, the nearest railway station to my village, on April 10 morning, thanks to all station masters and my friends working in Railways," he said.
Yadav then walked for five km before finally taking a boat ride across the Ganga river to reach his village. Although police and railway personnel stopped him at several places due to the lockdown, they let him go on humanitarian grounds.
"As many as 78 men from my village are working in Railways and I was aware that they could be of great help to me during the journey," he said.
Yadav, however, said that he supports the lockdown as it has been imposed to keep people safe.
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