· Most of the migrant daily wage workers have been starving for days, walking along National Highway – 24, braving rain and cold to reach their home in desperation along with their family members including little children
· Many of them have no or very less money, no guarantee of food or any remote idea when will they reach their destinations
· Some of the children were crying in their mothers’ arm, demanding water but there was nothing in the sight, except hollow promises from police personnel present on the spot
· Old men, women were begging the media with folded hands to do something for them
Although these words are not enough to describe their plight but ever since the Modi government announced the unplanned lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, thousands of daily wages workers – in a situation reminiscent of post-Partition mass displacement – have been stranded at the Delhi-UP border.
With factories, shops, industries, businesses coming to a halt, these workers were left in the lurch, without work, money and food.
“Unlike people like you (living in cities), we have no choice except for returning to our home. We will get at least chapati and chutney to eat. Here we have nothing,” said a middle-aged man who worked as a carpenter in Sahibabad.
Since there is no bus, train or any mode of transportation available on the road, these migrants who form nearly 80 per cent of our total workforce embarked on journeys to their respective homes on foot, endangering mass transmission of the deadly Coronavirus.
Moreover, governments – sitting in Lucknow and Delhi – have done nothing to help the working class.
Gaurav, who left his rented accommodation in Wazirabad, has been living on the road with his wife and five-year-old daughter for the last two days.
A resident of Mainpuri – a Lok Sabha constituency represented by SP patriarch Mulayam Sing Yadav, Gaurav expressed his plight and anger: “Nobody has come to our rescue. Neither government nor any NGO or any political party. I have nothing to eat. My daughter is hungry.”
“Somehow, I managed some biscuits for her but that is not enough. If not provided with food, we may die midway,” he said, adding, “200 km se jyada chalna hai. Thekedar ne bhaga diya. Paisa bhi nahi diya (we have to walk for over 200 KM. Contractor asked us to leave. He didn’t pay our wages).”
Standing beside Gaurav, another young man in his thirties who was holding his backpack in one hand and a water filter in another hand – the only belonging he could add to his household with his mearge income, added, “I was working in a shop that has been closed down by the authorities. I will at least get something to eat in my village. Here I will die without food.”
The young man who has completed ITI Electrical in 2014, worked as an electrician in Delhi.
A native of Farrukhabad district which is located 400 km away from Ghaziabad, the young man who did not wish to be named said, “Ye sarkar angrezon se bhi jyada zalim hai. Jo log videshon me the unke liye plane bheja, humare liye bus tak nahi hai (This government is more cruel than the Britishers. Those who were stranded in foreign countries, they sent plane to take them home. For us they cannot even arrange a bus).”
Ironically, instead of providing them with food, water or any relief, UP Police have barricaded them within a 500-meter circle, like cattle.
When asked about putting thousands of people exposed to mass-transmission of the deadly virus, a police officer told on the condition of anonymity, “We have arranged food and water for a few of them. What can the police do if there is no response from the higher-ups.”
“Though the Ghaziabad administration is trying to arrange buses for the stranded people, there is a lack of coordination,” he added.
A few hours later, after news channels started live telecast, a senior police officer reached the venue and announced: “Aap log line me khade ho jaye. Bus ka intzam kiya ja raha hai (Please stand in queue. Arrangements are being made to provide buses).”
When NH encountered the officer, asking why the local administration is not providing food, she requested anonymity and said, “We have only this much briefing from higher authorities.”
It should be mentioned here that though the Yogi government has issued a notification asking the local authorities to provide transportation to the migrants, nothing has been done on the ground for which BJP governments – both central and the state governments have drawn flak.
The local BJP MLA from Loni, Ghaziabad crossed all limits of insensitivity and civility when he said that those toiling thousands trying to walk back to their villages should be shot.