#21DayLockdown: With no money or transport, poor laborers walk home
In the battle against coronavirus, no country, as populous as India, has been put under lockdown, but then the times are extraordinary. While the lockdown was welcomed across party lines, the ones facing the brunt are poor migrant laborers, who are stuck in cities, have no money, and there's no means to take them home. In this extraordinary situation, they decided to walk.
Carrying their belongings, migrant workers walked towards home
Multiple media reports showed the ugly side of the lockdown as migrant workers, took whatever belongings they had, and walked towards their homes. One such worker, 23-year-old Mahesh Damor, started walking from Surat to his village in Jhalod taluka in Dahod. The distance is 300 km. He was accompaNIEd by five others and told NIE that he has no source of income in Surat.
While PM Modi spoke, some started their journey
In Ahmedabad, most of the estimated 2,000-plus migrant workers left on Tuesday, around the same time when PM Modi addressed the nation. They were headed towards their villages in Rajasthan. Somehow walking and hitching rides, they reached Bichhiwara tehsil, some 125 km away Wednesday afternoon. Bichhiwara tehsildar Amrit Patel told IE three RSRTC buses, 15-20 private mini-buses and vehicles were arranged to ferry them.
Some can't find connecting trains
The scenes weren't happy in Delhi either. Some workers left cities before lockdown and are now stuck. One 26-year-old Pintu Singh told Business-Standard, that he left from Rewari (MP) for his home in Champaran, Bihar. He reached Delhi but couldn't find another train for Bihar. With merely Rs. 2,000 with him, Pintu left all belongings at MP. He wants to be with his family.
Some workers have no access to food
Another 25-year-old Aram Singh left East Delhi's Preet Vihar saying he will at least get food in his village, now that all stores are closed. "We will sleep wherever we find space, eat and drink whatever we find, but we have to get home," he told IE, adding that police have been cooperative. And another worker Virender Singh Yadav said no food is available.
Haven't eaten anything since yesterday, reveals 16-year-old
A 16-year-old, who started his journey from Delhi to Badaun in Uttar Pradesh (some 285 km away), told ANI he hadn't eaten anything yesterday. "There are others who are walking home to Aligarh because there's no food or water in Delhi. At least back in village neighbors will help," the teen, who worked at a Chhole Bhatura stall, said.
"If we don't leave, we will die of hunger"
One laborer requested cops to put him in jail
Similarly, 27-year-old Gautam Lal Meena who started walking from Mumbai for his village in Rajasthan's Pratapgarh said, "Most of the money we had has been spent on paying for the lifts we took and the biscuits we bought to eat." He said when police hit them, they requested to be taken to jails. "At least we will get food there," he told IE.
Governments have assured help in some states
Some of the laborers weren't aware that the Delhi government has promised to give meals at night shelters, twice a day. In UP, Mrityunjay Kumar, the media adviser to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, said instructions have been given to District Magistrates to arrange transportation and food for these workers. Experts believe states should amplify coordination to mitigate the coronavirus impact on the unorganized sector.