Living one more month in Hyderabad was almost out of the question for D. Nihal and his four friends, all employees of a car servicing centre in the city. Their salaries had not been credited for a month, the lockdown in Telangana was extended till May end and they were sure that their savings would not last them long. But, with no vehicle of their own, it was hard for them to travel back to Kerala.
They asked around and learned that they could hire a bus back home, if they had enough people.
One of them posted about this in a Facebook group called ‘Malayalis in Hyderabad’, asking whether there were others interested in joining them. Soon, replies began coming in, from people who had lost their jobs, others who had to get back home urgently and even a fresher who got stranded in the city, after his company shut down during the lockdown, soon after he joined it. “Since we could accommodate only 22 in a bus, due to social distancing restrictions, we added the first 22 people in two WhatsApp groups, one for those from Thrissur and another for people from Ernakulam. My friends Nigil Gangan and M.G. Satheesh coordinated with the Thrissur team, while I did with the Ernakulam team. Some of the travel agencies demanded as much as ₹1.75 lakh for a trip. At last, we found one for ₹1.25 lakh, which came to around ₹6,000 per head. All of us then applied together for the COVID-19 Jagratha pass to clear the Walayar check-post, with this bus number,” says Nihal.
Jagratha team’s aid
But, following a two-day delay in getting the passes cleared, they got in touch with the Jagratha team as well as the district administrations in Thrissur and Ernakulam. When it got approved, only half of them got the same, leading to another round of phone calls and application processes.
“Both the District Collectors as well as all the officials were patient with us, despite multiple calls, and ensured that we got it all cleared. We reached the Walayar check-post at 7 p.m. on Friday. There was not much of a rush at that time and things went all smooth. The officials there told us that we would be taken to institutional quarantine centres as we had arrived from a red zone,” says Nihal.
Now, 21 of them are in quarantine centres in Ernakulam and Thrissur, while one person is at Kottayam.
All of them are happy with the facilities and care being provided at the centres.
The only grouse was non-functioning plug points in some rooms, which was addressed the very next day.