PRAYAGRAJ: Stranded in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum due to lockdown, a Prayagraj native found a unique way to get past travel restrictions and reach his hometown — carrying a truckload of onion. He got the permit to travel as onion is an essential commoity and its shipment is not banned.
Prem Murti Pandey, 56, works at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport and had been stranded in the city ever since the lockdown was announced in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic on March 23. Pandey lives in Dharavi, touted as Asia’s biggest slum, and now a hot spot of coronavirus.
“When I noticed that Covid-19 cases were rising at an alarming rate in Dharavi, it became difficult for me to stay there any longer. Hence, I decided to go back to my native town in Prayagraj,” said Pandey.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go back because of the travel restrictions. However, I realised that I would be allowed to enter the city if I was a vegetable or fruit trader,” he added.
The Union government has not imposed any curbs on transportation of vegetables and fruits, as they come under essential commodities category.
On April 16, Pandey went to Pimpalgaon in Nashik and purchased watermelons worth Rs 10,000. He came back and sold them in Mumbai the next day just to test waters. Setting his plan into motion, next he he bought 25.2 tonne of onion worth Rs 2.3 lakh from Nashik and hired a truck for Rs 77,500 the following day. He set out for Prayagraj with truckload of onions the same day.
“I thought, I would sell it off in Prayagraj and would get my investment of approximately 3 lakh back,” he says.
Pandey reached Prayagraj on the Thursday night and went straight to Mundera Mandi to sell the onions. However, when he failed to strike a deal for the consignment, he went back to his home in Kotwa Mubarakpur area of the city. Pandey said that he was planning to sell it to smaller traders.
Sub-inspector and in charge of TP Nagar police outpost Arvind Singh said, “When police received information that a man had arrived from Mumbai, a health department team went to his house and conducted thermal screening on Thursday. He was asked to quarantine himself at home and his swab sample was collected on Saturday. He was later shifted to a quarantine centre in Kareli on Saturday.”
Pandey is unapologetic and says he didn’t do anything wrong. “My entire family including aged parents are here, while I work in Mumbai. I have responsibilities towards my family and I believe that I chose a perfectly lawful way to return.”