Coronavirus Outbreak: After losing job, youth cycles 2,000 km over seven days to reach Odisha

Updated: Apr 13, 2020, 21:55 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Upon reaching Odisha, Jena was first screened at the district headquarters hospital where he was found without any COVID-19 symptoms

This picture has been used for representational purpose only
This picture has been used for representational purpose only

On April 9, Odisha became the first state to extend the 21-day nationwide lockdown in the state till April 30. But two days before the extended lockdown was announced, a 20-year-old youth from Odisha, who was working in Maharashtra's Sangli district before the lockdown returned to his state after cycling for around 2,000 km.

The 20-year-old youth identified as Mahesh Jena left Sangli on April 1 and reached Odisha on April 7 after he cycled around 2,000 km for seven days. Jena took the bold decision when the factory where he worked was closed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the global pandemic.

While speaking to Hindustan Times Jena said, "When the factory was closed we were told that it would not reopen for the next five months. I figured out that if I continued to stay then I would run out of money quickly. So the only option was leaving the place at any cost."

In order to reach Odisha, Jena bought a bicycle for Rs 1200 and spent another Rs 500 to replace its tyre and tube. Jena, who began his journey on April 1 at 4.30 a said that his original plan was to reach his village in 15 days.

Talking about his journey he said, "When I started, I did not want to stop, I rode during the daytime and carried on till 12 in the night. I would then look for a temple or roadside dhaba to sleep." During his journey, Jena ate at roadside dhabas and at places where local police or NGOs would offer free food. During the journey, Jena not only replaced his cycle tyres but his phone was also conked off.

Speaking about how he planned to reach Odisha Jena said, "When I first arrived in Sangli along with my village friend 7 months ago, I had hazy idea about the route. On April 1 when I started from Sangli, I thought I could cover about 120-130 km a day on the cycle and reach home. But when I started, I did not want to stop, I rode during the daytime and carried on till 12 in the night. I would then look for a temple or roadside dhaba to sleep off."

Upon reaching Sholapur, Jena rode towards Hyderabad and then towards Vijayawada. Post which he rode his bicycke to Vishakhapatnam and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh before entering Odisha at Ganjam. From Ganjam he then cycled to Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and finally Jajpur on April 7 evening.

Upon reaching Jajpur on April 7, Jena was stopped by the police at a check post installed where the police personnel stopped outsiders from entering the district. Talking about Jena, police inspector Ashish Kumar Sahu said, "With a rucksack on his back, he was cycling. After lockdown was announced, the factory in Maharashtra where he worked as a daily labourer was closed leaving him and several others in great misery. He somehow managed to get a rickety bicycle from a local there and started cycling to his home in Odisha."

Following lockdown procedures, Jena was first screened at the district headquarters hospital where he was found without any COVID-19 symptoms. Post which he was sent to a government quarantine centre, where he would be kept in isolation for 14 days.

"I was worried about being picked up by police during my journey. I was stopped twice by police on Andhra-Maharashtra border and Andhra-Odisha border, but I was allowed to go,"recalls Jena, who was stopped by the police on two occasions.

The 20-year-old migrant worker has spent over seven days at the quarantine facility. Speaking about his time at the quarantine centre, Jena said that the meal which comprised of rice and a boiled curry of lentil and vegetables was getting too boring for him. Speaking about the food, he stated, "How long can you eat the same food twice a day? After I am discharged from the quarantine centre, I plan to go back home and have a nice meal. Once the factories reopen, I would again go back."

Lauding the youngster on his inspiring journey, Odisha's Jajpur block development officer Sourav Chakraborty said that it was incredible the way he cycled to his home. "His journey would make a very good script for a movie."

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