With no govt help forthcoming, migrants with blisters on their feet forced to walk thousands of miles

There are endless heart-wrenching instances of how the sudden lockdown has forced poor workers to hit the road to return to their native places, with some of them losing their lives in the process

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

Biswajeet Banerjee

The officials in Uttar Pradesh administration say that buses will take migrant workers to home. In daily press briefings, senior government officers churn out the numbers of trains that have arrived in UP and the number of migrants workers being brought back. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asks officers to be polite with these workers and provide them transport. However, the grim reality is that thousands of migrant workers are forced to walk and cycle back to their homes.

High sounding assurances are coming from both the Centre and the state government, but these workers do not want to wait any longer. So, they opted for the most challenging option: to walk back home.

Mohammad Imran, a native of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, was seen walking back to his village from Ajmer with his pregnant wife, children and parents. He walked almost 400 km and reached Agra where he was stopped on Wednesday. “If I get a ride it is okay, otherwise I will walk with my family. It is better to walk than to die on the roads,” he said.

There are hordes of people who are walking or cycling back to their homes from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to their native villages in Uttar Pradesh. A majority of them tried the helpline number publicised by the government but either it remained busy or nobody was available to receive calls.

With no govt help forthcoming, migrants with blisters on their feet forced to walk thousands of miles

These are the stories of grit and determination of these people – some of which had a happy ending and others that ended in grief.

The journey that ended in death:

  • Tabarak Ansari (48) worked in a power loom factory in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra. After lockdown, he along with his village mate Ramesh Gaud (28) decided to go back to their village Shishpur village in Maharajganj district in UP. Ramesh made it home but Ansari did not -- he died midway on April 30. It was Ansari’s plan to go back to their village. He even asked his son and brother to join them but they refused. He was disenchanted with the development and wanted to settle in his village, says Ramesh while recalling the tragic journey. When they reached Sidhuan village of Maharashtra, Ansari complained of chest pain and dizziness. The locals there did not help and when he was finally taken to a hospital, he died after a brief struggle, Ramesh recounts. Ansari’s body was buried in Sidhuan village itself as the family did not have money to take the body home.
  • Insaf Ali, 35, of Mathkhanwa village in Shravasti district was luckier than Ansari as he reached home after walking and hitch-hiking around 1,400 km from Mumbai in almost 14 days. But he died within a few hours after reaching home. The medical report says he died of dehydration. Ali was a helper to a mason in Mumbai, and is survived by his wife and two children.
  • Three migrant labourers of Etah died in a road mishap in Madhya Pradesh. Dalvir Singh was among three Etah-bound migrant workers who died in the accident. He was returning from Tamil Nadu when the tempo they were travelling in overturned. The body was cremated in Hanauna village on Monday

Mother’s tryst to protect daughter:

With no govt help forthcoming, migrants with blisters on their feet forced to walk thousands of miles

Rukhsana Bano embarked on a 900 km long journey from Indore to Amethi just to try save her daughter Nargis (3) from the coronavirus. “I tried to hitch a hike but no one stopped. If we don’t get any vehicle we will continue our journey on foot,” she said.

She was part of a group of 8 relatives who decided to head home on foot they failed to get help from the MP or UP governments. Her husband was a waiter in a restaurant. After it closed down because of the lockdown, they waited for few days and then decided to walk to their village in Amethi.

“The situation in Indore was very bad. There was fear that we could also be infected. So we decided to walk back home,” she said.

Her husband stayed back as he was not confident about the idea of walking back home. Rukhsana joined a group of relatives returning to Amethi. After a lift on two trucks and a tractor and walking for over 24 hours, they finally reached home on Tuesday.

Mumbai –Prayagraj: 15,000 km in 6 day

With no govt help forthcoming, migrants with blisters on their feet forced to walk thousands of miles

Autos bearing the Maharashtra number plates are quite visible in Prayagraj – earlier called Allahabad. They travelled 1500 km from Mumbai in six-odd days and spent Rs 15,000 which include ‘suvidha shulk’ to the policemen at the inter-state borders.

A majority of these people are auto drivers who used to earn a livelihood in Mumbai plying autos. After lockdown, when their `dhanda’ died down they decided to return home. Ramesh Chaurasia is one such enterprising auto driver. He spoke to his friends who chipped in money and they decided to return home.

“We travelled 300-400 km per day and it took almost 6 days to reach Praygraj,” he said. When asked if they were not stopped at inter-state borders he said: paisa bolta hai.

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Published: 13 May 2020, 2:09 PM