A Drive From Delhi to Bihar on the Eve of Nationwide Lockdown
As India was preparing for a lockdown, I drove 1,300 km, all the way fromNew Delhi to Munger in Bihar.
Video Editor: Varun Sharma
The first case of COVID-19 in India was reported at the end of January. By mid-March, the number of cases has risen to 200. Taking this into consideration, on 19 March Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to address the nation.
Terming it as 'the beginning of a long battle,' PM Modi called on his citizens to observe a 'Janata Curfew' on 22 March – a Sunday. By that evening over 70 districts were sealed by various state governments due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Due to the developing circumstances, my office also decided to go for a total 'Work From Home' scenario, 22 March onwards.
Delhi Preparing For a Shutdown
Taking everything into account and anticipating a national lockdown with tougher days ahead, I decided to travel back to my hometown and work from there. Most flights, trains, buses from the national capital were cancelled, as Delhi was preparing for a shutdown. After checking all the available ways to travel, I was left with just one option – a 1,300-kilometre drive from Delhi to Munger in Bihar.
Beginning of a ‘Super Marathon Drive’
On 23 March at 2 pm, I started my super marathon drive towards my hometown. The route I had to take was Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Gorakhpur-Muzaffarpur-Munger. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had already announced that the national capital’s borders will be sealed. As soon as I reached Kalindi Kunj, I was welcomed with three levels of barricading: One near Shaheen Bagh, second near Okhla barrage and third near the Okhla Bird Sanctuary in Noida. Every traveller was asked to stop at the Noida border, myself included, and requested to show their IDs. As many travellers were turned away, the Uttar Pradesh Police allowed me to go only after checking my ID.
With No Public Transport, Hundreds Stranded on Roads
As I reached the Yamuna Expressway, I saw hundreds of people standing on the road waiting to take buses so that they could reach home. But not a single bus was to be seen. As I moved forward, I saw many people loading themselves on a few tractors like goods are piled on trucks. And those who couldn't avail such an option were left with no choice but to walk – hundreds of kilometres back home, as the public transport was shut.
Crossing UP-Bihar Border
The next morning when I reached the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border, the situation there involved more than just barricades. Hundreds of trucks with payloads on them just stood one after another for kilometres on either side of the border. Not a single transport vehicle was allowed to move. A villager guided me to take a narrow village lane to avoid traffic. Driving through India's hinterlands – the fields and villages – Google Maps wasn't of much help. Instead, replies to my shoutouts to locals for directions guided me on the route.
The sun was about to set for the day and the evening was catching up as I continued on my way home. It was late evening, around 7 pm, as I was about to reach Munger, I met another checkpoint. Again, after showing my ID card, I was allowed to go. Throughout my journey, I had to cross at least 10 checkpoints. Just 15 minutes after I arrived at my destination – my home – Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a nationwide lockdown. As for what I have seen throughout my journey, and if there are any takers of my advice then I would say: DON'T TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN. Stay wherever you are. These are tough times and it will pass.
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