India’s IT city, which successfully managed to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic for the first three months, seems to have lost the plot in the last one week.
The rising number of coronavirus cases in the state capital, coupled with the fear of another lockdown and the loss of jobs is forcing thousands of people to flee the megapolis and return to their native places in Karnataka
On Sunday, 64% of the total number of Covid-19 infections in the state were from Bengaluru urban district alone.
In the last one week, at least two to three lakh people have left the city, triggering panic in government circles and the business community.
Pune – Bengaluru National Highway, the main arterial road, which dissects the state from the state capital to Belgaum, about 570 kilometres away, is jam-packed with vehicles heading to different parts of Karnataka. Almost all toll gates are witnessing a huge rush of frenzied people who are returning home either for a short duration or permanently.
People from the lower-middle class strata and the poor, who were earning their livelihood through odd jobs and small businesses, could be seen heading home in pickup trucks, minivans and even auto-rickshaws with their belongings.
Some said they are returning home as they feared their safety amid mounting Covid-19 cases in the city, while the remaining maintained that they were forced to leave as there are no jobs left and small businesses had collapsed completely.
Basavaraj, a 40-year-old Uber cab driver has returned to his native place Bidar with his family. He said that he vacated his house and asked the school to issue transfer certificates for his two children.
“I have been in Bengaluru for the past 20 years. In the last three months, our taxi business has collapsed. It is difficult to earn even Rs 1,000 a day. Future also looks uncertain. That’s why I am returning to my native place Bidar. When the schools reopen, I will admit my children at a government school in my village," Basavaraj told News18.
He added that he would try to survive by engaging in some small business there.
"We can’t live in Bengaluru any longer. Like me, hundreds of others have also left for their native places. Some might return after a few months. Some may not," he said.
Tens of thousands of “To Let” boards greet the people across the city, a reminder of the grim situation.
Rajagopal Reddy of Electronic City, who owns over 100 small-sized houses for rent, claims that 75% of his tenants have left for their native places.
“Earlier, it was difficult to find a vacant house here. In the first two months, outsiders (people from other states) vacated their houses and left. Most of them may not come back. Now, people from different parts of Karnataka are leaving. We did not expect this. It is scary. The real estate business has almost collapsed overnight”, he said.
An alarmed state government is making repeated requests to the people asking them to not flee Bengaluru. The Home Minister Basavaraj S Bommai said that people are returning to their homes fearing another lockdown.
“There is no proposal to impose another lockdown. These are just rumours. We are requesting the people to stay back in the city”, he said.
Even Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa assured the people that there is no need to worry as there would not be any further lockdown.
The sudden reverse migration has hit businesses in the city hard as many establishments are facing an acute shortage of workforce. In some places, the milk and newspaper delivery boys have suddenly disappeared.
The infrastructure industry which depends heavily on the workers from the north has taken a huge hit as even the local workers have returned to their villages.