Lockdown Impact: ‘Quarantine was like hell’

Group of people boarded a bus provided by UP govt to take them back home, they were kept in a quarantine centre where they were deprived of food and other necessities like toilet facilities

Lockdown Impact: ‘Quarantine was like hell’

Biswajeet Banerjee

Reshma and her family comprising her husband and two children were among a group of 15 people who boarded a bus provided by the Uttar Pradesh government to take them to their hometown Sitapur. They reached their village Sanjarabad but landed at a quarantine centre where they were deprived of food, water and other necessities like toilet facilities.

“Initially I thought it was a big mistake I had committed by leaving Lucknow. The life was a real hell there,” Reshma said. Reshma works as a maid in a colony in Lucknow while others work as daily wage labourers in different construction sites of the city. When the lockdown was announced people asked her not to come, but as the construction sites were closed the male members too lost their livelihood. They then decided to go to their village Sanjarabad in Sitapur district, 80 kms from Lucknow

Om March 30 they reached their village and the same night they stayed at their home. As the news spread that people from outside have come and staying in village, the pradhan came and asked us to go and stay in a primary school, she said.

“For the first time in my life, I heard the word quarantine from the pradhan’s mouth. I never knew it could turn out to be that torturous. Initially, I thought it is like an inspection centre which has been set up in primary school building of our village. But when I faced the reality, it was a hell. Laga jaise narak mein aagaye,” she said.

She said that the pradhan refused to give them food. The toilet in the school was locked with a padlock. The pradhan said that one member of the family should come for food by maintaining social distance. “There is no one in our house who could cook and give us food. We are not on talking terms with other members of the family. Our portion of the house remains locked when we are in Lucknow. So, there was no one to give us food,” she said. One full day we passed without a morsel of food. “When we could not bear the hunger any more, I sent my daughter to home to cook food for us. When pradhan came to know about it, he rebuked us and said have you come for a marriage that I should give you food,” said Reshma.

The government rule says that migrant workers should be given beddings and other facilities. “We brought our own bistara (bedding) from our home in village,” she said. For the next 10 days, she and others stayed in quarantine. For breakfast, they got a samosa or biscuit with tea, four puris and sabzi for lunch as well as for dinner. “We could not ask for more puri because a person used to come and leave a bundle of puri and sabzi at the gate of the school,” she said. On April 10, a team of doctors came. They checked us and said we can go home now. That was a big reprieve, she said. Reshma now lives in her village. The family has a small land holding. They have harvested their wheat crop. They have got their quota of ration and now they are content with life. “I want to forget my 10 days stay in quarantine. It was a hell,” she said.

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