A 20-year-old migrant worker reached his home in Odisha this week after he cycled nearly 2,000 km for seven days from Sangli-Miraj in Maharashtra. He started his journey back home after the factory where he worked was shut amid the 21-day national lockdown.
"When the factory was closed we were told that it would not reopen for the next five months. I figured out that if I continued to stay then I would run out of money quickly. So the only option was leaving the place at any cost," Mahesh Jena said.
The lockdown started an exodus of lakhs of migrant workers who were left jobless and without any basic essentials. Many of them returned to their homes on foot.
To provide them relief, the Centre has ordered all states and Union territories to use their State Disaster Response Fund to give temporary accommodation, food, clothing and medical care to migrant workers.
On April 7, Mahesh Jena returned to Odisha's Jajpur town, where he was stopped from entering the district at a check post.
"With a rucksack on his back, he was cycling. After lockdown was announced, the factory in Maharashtra where he worked as a daily labourer was closed leaving him and several others in great misery. He somehow managed to get a rickety bicycle from a local there and started cycling to his home in Odisha," police inspector Ashish Kumar Sahu told The Hindustan Times.
Jena was first screened at the district headquarters hospital and tested negative for any symptoms of COVID-19. He was then referred to a government quarantine centre set up at a high school in the district for a 14-day quarantine.
He purchased a rickety bicycle for Rs 1,200 on March 31 and then spent an additional Rs 500 to replace its tyres and tube. On April 1, Jena commenced his journey at 4.30 am and aimed at reaching his village in 15 days.
"When I first arrived in Sangli along with my village friend 7 months ago, I had hazy idea about the route. On April 1 when I started from Sangli, I thought I could cover about 120-130 km a day on the cycle and reach home. But when I started, I did not want to stop, I rode during the daytime and carried on till 12 in the night. I would then look for a temple or roadside dhaba to sleep off," said Jena.
After he reached Sholapur, he moved towards Hyderabad and then Vijayawada. From there he went to Vishakhapatnam and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh till he entered Odisha at Ganjam. From Ganjam he moved to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and finally reached Jajpur on April 7 evening.
"I was worried about being picked up by police during my journey. I was stopped twice by police on Andhra-Maharashtra border and Andhra-Odisha border, but I was allowed to go," he said.
"His journey would make a very good script for a movie," Jajpur block development officer Sourav Chakraborty said.