Bengaluru: Hundreds of people, including daily wage labourers, students and professionals, gathered at the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation bus depot in Bengaluru on Saturday.
There was no social distancing in sight as people came in large numbers to the depot after the government gave its nod for inter-district movement.
In the beginning, those who wanted to take the bus were charged a two-way fare which led to some migrant labourers paying more than Rs 1,000 per person to travel to the northern districts of the state.
Later, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa ordered that only one-way fare should be collected from them. With no work since days, some labourers struggled to pay even for this fare.
"We are 30 of us going to Chithapur in Kalaburagi district (around 580km from Bengaluru). We are all daily wagers earning around Rs 400 a day. We haven't had work for the last one month and now have to pay Rs 640 per person to go home.
“We can at least work in the farms once we go home. Here, the lockdown has been extended for two more weeks. We don't know what is going to happen," said a woman waiting for her bus with luggage, including ration.
Initially, it was said that migrant labourers would be transported in these buses and the government would bear the cost. Soon after, some of them rushed to the bus depot only to be told that they have had to shell out a large sum as bus fare.
Students and professionals too had arrived at the depot to get a ticket back home.
"My wife is in Shimoga. She is pregnant and alone. She had gone to her relative's place for Ugadi, but they too stay far away for her home. It is getting difficult to get help. I wanted to go to be with her. But looking at this crowd, I have decided to stay back. The government could have handled the situation better," said Shivamurthy, an employee of a private firm.
Passengers will be thermal screened before being allowed to board the buses and anyone going to another district must stay in institutional quarantine, the government has said.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Suresh Kumar, in-charge of briefing the media regarding coronavirus-related matters in the state, said there was some initial confusion because only 30 people could travel in a bus and the total fare was to be shared by them.
“Now, all of them are being sent to their destinations at a single-way fare. The rest will be borne by the labour department," Kumar said, adding the service will resume on Sunday.
The Divisional Control Manager of KSRTC, Bengaluru, Inayat Bagban said Saturday’s crisis was unexpected.
“All of a sudden people started arriving. Tomorrow we are going to shift this to a bigger place. No services after 6pm. We will resume the service around 9am on Sunday," Bagban said.
There are as many as 5,344 migrant labourers, mostly in Bengaluru city from different parts of the state. The government is also trying to streamline the process for those who wish to move out of the state or come in.