Delhi

Corona Cyclips documents the 600-km cycle journey of two journalists covering the migrant labour crisis

Dibyaudh Das (left) and Sruthin Lal   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Journalists Dibyaudh Das and Sruthin Lal travelled from Delhi to Lucknow in May to cover the displacement of migrant labourers in Uttar Pradesh. The stories the duo covered in their 600-km cycle journey that lasted 12 days have been released as a three-part documentary series, titled Corona Cyclips.

Sruthin and Dibyaudh hadn’t cycled since their school days. The idea for a 600 km ride, the latter admits, was supposed to stay as an idea. “I thought I’ll just suggest this crazy idea in the newsroom meeting and… that’s it. But Sruthin (associate editor) was also excited about it. He came up with a workable plan. The company approved it.” And, the two journalists were on their way.

The journey, amidst a heatwave and a raging pandemic, was expectedly arduous. “My whole body was sore after the first day,” says Dibyaudh, “But we were live-blogging our journey. We shared stories of people who were in need of help. And, we noticed immediate feedback and a lot of people got help. So, that kept us going.”

The reverse migration of labourers from cities to their hometowns was largely a story of heartbreak. Tens and thousands of them traveled over 100 miles on foot, without food, for days. The Guardian called it “the greatest exodus since partition”. The documentary, apart from capturing this, also covers moments of benevolence. “Throughout our journey, we saw people -- Panchayat workers, officials, Dhaba owners -- providing food and water to labourers. In Vrindavan, for instance, we met some villagers who make tulsi malas for a living. Their livelihoods were hit badly due to the lockdown. But they came together to help the migrant labourers. They pooled in money and food grains and fed the people coming into the state,” says Sruthin.

Sruthin says travelling in cycles helped them get such stories. He calls it ‘slow journalism’, wherein one stops, observes and investigates upon noticing something interesting. His colleague concurs. “A lot of people helped us because we were on cycle. I think they could relate to us. It’s not the same as getting out of an AC car and putting mics in front of them. It was also easy to access some villages that wouldn’t have been possible with bigger vehicles. It saved us from the problem for looking for fuel as well during the lockdown.”

Another concern that was at the back of their heads was the COVID-19 disease itself. “Back in May, the villages were largely uninfected. Since we were travelling from cities and towns, we were doubly careful about not contracting the virus and spreading it in the villages,” says Dibyaudh.

The entire documentary has been filmed using a mobile phone. “We carried a tripod. But it wasn’t needed much,” says Sruthin, “You don’t need a lot of resources to tell a story. That was the biggest takeaway from our journey. All you need is a mobile phone. With social media, you can create an immediate impact as well.”

The labourers’ stories, Sruthin feels, have been forgotten. “The media and the people seem to have moved on from the issue. I hope this documentary’s release serves as a reminder.”

The three-part series of Corona Cyclips is available on Asiaville’s YouTube page

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 3:39:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/corona-cyclips-documents-the-600-km-cycle-journey-of-two-journalists-covering-the-migrant-labour-crisis/article32900862.ece

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