Despite resumption of air and train services, many find it tough to go back homes

Chennai: The past two months have given everyone a new experience. On 24 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced lockdown asking people to stay whereever they were. Borders were closed, trains halted, airports shut down and public transport came to a standstill.

For those who were with their families it was bit easy, but not for many who lived away from their homes.

Now with more relaxations and things slowly picking up, News Today looks at how transportation is reuniting people with their loved ones.

Sowmya has been living in Chennai for the past two years for work while her parents are in Chandigarh. She works for an IT company while living in a hostel in the city.

On 22 March, anticipating the situation, she tried booking a flight home for 27 March, but she could not fly out due to lockdown.
‘I stayed back in my hostel while majority of the girls managed to reach home. In mid-April, my aunt in the city came and picked me up.’ She lived there for one-and-a-half months.

As soon as domestic air operations re-opened, Soumya booked tickets for 2 June to Chandigarh and has her fingers crossed.

‘My office has given work from home permit until August as I work for an US-based client. She has shelled out Rs 13,500 for a one-way ticket.
Vandana*, who lives in OMR has had it tough. She shares a paying guest accommodation with a few others girls. For her, even getting a can of water had been challenging.

She works for a start-Up and due to work pressure and the company’s unsure future, she put her papers and is now trying to go to her native place in neighbouring Kerala for good. She does not mind taking a flight home or even hiring cab. She is trying all avenues to reach home.

‘My dad and brother are willing to drive till Valayar checkpost, I just need to get till there’, she says.

For lakhs of Malayalees stranded here, Confederation of Tamilnadu Malayalee Association (CTMA) has come to their rescue by sending buses to all districts in Kerala.

‘We are a confederation of 128 associations and represent 40 lakh Malayalees in Tamilnadu. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, we formed a committee to help those who are stranded here’, says chief co-ordinator of travel desk, CTMA, R Radhakrishnan.

From mid-April we have been sending buses and have scheduled buses till 31 May. Ateast 3,000 people have been sent to Kerala from Chennai, Thirunelveli, Madurai and Katpadi.

He says they make sure passes are obtained from Tamilnadu and Kerala governments and all social distancing norms are followed. A bus with capacity of 50 takes only 25 persons. The buses and the drivers are from Kerala for practical reasons and to avoid a double quarartine.

However he says of late both the governments have made the procedures strict due to spike in Covid numbers. Now only a single bus is leaving in a span of three to four days.

But there are many like Karthik*, who is in Rajasthan and Shwetha* in Delhi. Despite the availability of flights, they cannot go home.
Reason being they cannot pay the hefty flight charges, come to the south and then keep paying their house rent. Some of them are worried about losing their jobs and are sticking to the situation.

(*Names changed to protect identity)

Naomi N