Rickshaw puller Sunil Das from Muzaffarpur in Bihar has been working in the Maharajpur area near the Anand Vihar ISBT in East Delhi the last 8-10 years. He is the father of three children, and lives in Karkarpur. Three months back he booked his train tickets for home, and was to travel on March 25, family in tow. It was only when he got to the station and saw not a single train on the platform that he panicked. He tried to go from one window to another, only to find every one of them closed.Finally he found one railway employee who told him to go back home as all the trains were cancelled, his tickets too were cancelled. The railway official took Sunil’s phone number –8130264388—and told him he will receive an SMS regarding the ticket cancellation.
Sunil and his family returned to the room in Maharajpur. On Day 2 of the lockdown, with no money to feed his children and wife, and of course himself, he came out with his rickshaw, to the Kaushambi metro station,in the hope of picking up at least two passengers. The police at the Delhi-UP border did not let him enter Delhi , where Sunil wanted to take shelter at the Gurdwara in Madhu Vihar—the nearest for him. Given small children and the weather that was warming up, he did not want to walk the five kilometres. And afraid his rickshaw would be impounded he did not make a serious bid to reach the gurudwara. Since then, he has been pedaling his rickshaw between Kaushambi and Vaishali, his eyes desperate to sight a passenger. “How will we eat otherwise?” he asked, as he did a u-turn to make another trip to Vaishali.
Sunil is not the only migrant worker in the capital, who could not make the journey to “home” where he and his wife would make some money during the harvest season. But unlike Sunil, some have begun walking towards Aligarh, Patna and where have you. Such a long journey, and getting to the destination so uncertain.
Naresh Paswan, another rickshaw puller also from Maharajpur, has also not been able to cross the border into the capital, try as he did through the main road, side road, and everywhere his rickshaw would go. He wanted to reach the Ghazipur mandi that was almost a touching distance, but he could not. The idea was to buy some vegetables from there and try to sell them for a small profit, and if he was lucky, he could also pick up a passenger or two. The only way he could get a meal was at the gurudwara , but to get there he had to cross the border. While he could have walked across, he did not want to leave his rickshaw, sure that the police would damage it, and he would have to pay the owner for its maintenance. “I don’t have money for food, where I can afford all this”.
Musandi Rasiya from Purnia , another man in the same boat as Sunil and Naresh, says he has not had food or water from Sunday. He does not even pull his rickshaw because he has no energy. “Even water is sold here. I sleep in the rickshaw, and the police came and told me to go home.”. Because he had no money to pay the daily rent for his room, he was thrown out. “There is not even a sarkari tap from which I can drink water” he said as he started crying. Ironically, in front of the Bisleri plant across the Kaushambi metro station.
Pawan, a 30-year old safai karamchari with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has been using a DTC bus to go to Lajpat Nagar, and on his way back home in Ghaziabad, he has to walk the 15-20 kilometres from Anand Vihar. “There is no tempo now but I will get a lift”.
Students from the ITI, Noida, have been evicted from their rooms by the owners. They were walking towards Mayapuri-35 kilometres—with the idea of staying with friends , who like them, come from Bareliey.