Heartbreaking Stories Emerge Of Migrant Labourers Walking Hundreds Of Kilometres To Reach Their Native Villages Amid Lockdown
At some places, the travellers faced the wrath of the cops. At others, cops and administrations came to their rescue.
Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation at 8pm on 24 March, announcing a 21-day nationwide lockdown, a group of eight daily-wage labourers left Kanpur on foot to their native village in Bahraich, some 250 kilometres away.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, the group ate only after a walk of 100 km at a Lucknow check post. Cops offered them food from their own tiffin boxes.
The report says the group had no option but to hit the road, as their contractor told them that there would be no work for the next 21 days, and they could not stay at the site anymore.
One of the men, Guddu, told the newspaper that they went to the nearest railway station first, but it was closed.
Heartbreaking stories of migrant labourers undertaking journeys of hundreds of kilometres on foot have been emerging form across the country, ever since the lockdown came into effect.
With no factories running and no businesses operating, daily-wagers are trying to reach their villages anyhow. The advisory of staying indoors and keeping physical distance may be good for their own health, but for many, it is a choice between possibility of contracting the disease and certainty of hunger.
Mohammad Kasim, along with five other men, reached Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh from Palwal in Haryana after walking for 28 hours, reported The Times of India.
“We ate biscuits and bananas as we did not have money for proper meals,” he told the newspaper.
If such migrants were helped by cops at some places, they were harassed and even beaten up at other places.
A video said to be from UP’s Badaun district showed a group of men, who had reportedly walked on foot from Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior, being punished by a cop. The policeman was seen making them crawl and jump for breaking the lockdown directive.
The video triggered outrage on social media.
The post had been retweeted more than 5,400 times, with people condemning the act of the cops.
Later, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Badaun apologised for it.
In a video statement, he said the cop in question was an under training constable and had been taken off duty pending inquiry.
In another case, Rabul Shaikh reached his hometown in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district by walking for over 10 hours with his family. He told the media that they were forced to run at some places to escape the police’s lathis.
“A lot of other men were beaten up and forced to kneel down on the side of the road,” Shaikh told the media.
Videos are now emerging of police and administration making arrangements for such travellers and those stranded in cities without work.
In Odisha, the government has allowed dhabas and eateries to open along the highways so that the migrants can get food and water.
About 2,000 daily-wage workers and labourers who started from Gujarat’s Ahmedabad began to walk to their native places in Rajasthan, were provided buses at Bichhiwara after local authorities came to know about it. Bichhiwara is about 125 km from Ahmedabad.
Bichhiwara tehsildar Amrit Patel told Indian Express that they arranged three Rajasthan state transport buses and 15-20 private minibuses for the travellers.
The labourers, who hail from various districts of Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Banswara, Dungarwara and Udaipur, had started their journey soon after the lockdown was announced.
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