1232 Kilometers is the destination that 30 migrants in the age-group of 22-32 cycled from Delhi to reach their homes in the Saharsa district of Bihar.
And filmmaker Vinod Kapri, who directed the feature film Pihu about a little girl stranded alone in her home (sounds ominous, considering what we’re going through), followed their journey which is now a documentary titled 1,232 Kilometers.
How did Kapri’s journey begin? “Basically, this journey is a manifestation of my own guilt and remorse. From Day 1 on March 25 when the lockdown was announced I was constantly following the stories and movements of migrant labourers.
On March 26 I met this lady who was walking all the way from Delhi to her hometown in Kanpur with her three daughters. They were a group of nine people. I followed her journey until we reached Aligarh at 2.30 am. She wanted to take rest for a few hours, But when I joined them again at 5.45 am she was nowhere to be seen. I was guilt-stricken for having left her for a few hours.”
Then Vinod says he got into this other migrants’ predicament. “I read a Tweet on 13 April about these migrant labourers from Bihar who were hungry for four days and there was a phone number. I immediately called them and helped them get food After that they started calling me regularly. When food supplies dried up I put some money in their account. They then said they wanted to return home .
On April 28 when some people reached their place of residence in Delhi with food, they were not there. I called again, and the migrants told me they had left for their home in Saharsa Bihar as they were fed up of scrounging for food. I was shocked. I asked how did they leave. They told me they had all asked for some money 1200-1500 rupees from their homes to buy second-hand bicycles. They were cycling home.They were calling from Hapur, 70 miles from Delhi.”
Vinod Kapri decided to join them. “I told them I was heading out to meet them . I caught up with them in Moradabad. They were 30 of them all in the age group of 22-32. But they were badly beaten in Mukhteshwar by cops. So they split up in three groups. I accompanied a group of 7 migrant labourers all the way their village in Saharsa a total of 1232 kms on their rickety bicycles . It took seven days. I met their families, their parents , wives and children.They did the impossible.”
Vinod Kapiri’s documentary on the cycling migrants is almost ready. These migrant labourers are now part of my extended family. They video- call me in the evenings and show me how comfortable they are in their isolation centre.”
Kapri feels the Government has no plan for migrants. “In fact they have no emotions for them. These labourers do not exist for the Government.”
There are several streaming platforms showing a keen interest in Kapri’s documentary.
“The middleclass needs to be made aware of the migrants’ plights. Because these migrant labourers have lost all faith in the Government. When pilgrims are fed and sheltered by the public during their journey to their teerth spot, why not these migrants? What can be a greater punya than feeding these hungry migrants? Don’t come into physical contact with them. But at least leave food packets for them,” urges Vinod Kapri.