Defiant migrants ready to confront anything that comes their way

They refuse to admit the futility of their efforts to reach home

March 31, 2020 11:38 pm | Updated April 01, 2020 10:51 am IST - Greater Noida

Migrants in Greater Noida.

Migrants in Greater Noida.

They knew there were supposed to be no buses — State-run or private — to ferry them home; they were aware that inter-State borders had been sealed given the nationwide lockdown to contain the community spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Still, migrant workers putting up at a government shelter set up near the transit hub of Pari Chowk in Greater Noida refused to acknowledge either the futility of their efforts or that of their hope here on Tuesday.

While those with families, including children, sat on the main road adjacent to the Jhandewala Mandir Dharamshala camp with their bags packed, just in case some means of travel appeared, small groups of young men tried not to attract attention as they walked neighbourhood streets adjacent the highway to Delhi.

Lone travellers on the Yamuna Expressway above, with heavy backpacks on their shoulders, had planned a 100-km-long walk to Agra and said they were willing to take their chances both with a police confrontation and with whatever else came their way as long as they could inch closer home.

Ramjeet Singh, who was employed at a prominent refrigeration company’s manufacturing unit in Haryana’a Manesar, and his family of four quietly waited in the courtyard of the Jhandewala Mandir Dharamshala camp a stone’s throw away from the swanky Pari Chowk metro station.

Tried and failed

The only residents of the camp, which according to the administration has a capacity to house 200 inmates, Mr. Singh admitted they had tried and failed each attempt made by them to travel to Etah since they ended up here on Sunday evening.

“We started from Manesar on Friday evening and reached the Gurugram border on foot at night but it was sealed. After spending the night there, we walked, hitched rides and were able to somehow make it to Greater Noida on Sunday night; but by that time the bus service on the Yamuna Expressway had stopped,” he said, his attention turning to inspect every vehicle passing him by on the main road as he spoke.

“The police asked us and some boys, waiting for a bus, to make our way to this camp. We were exhausted so we spent the night here. My family and I were able to wash and bathe after two days. We decided to go home when those boys got into a private vehicle. We thought we could also get one, but when we couldn’t, the police asked us to return to this camp. So we walked back,” he said.

His wife, Kiran, said it wasn’t as if she had any complaints against the facilities on offer. “There is food and there is a place to sleep; but it’s not home,” she said.

On the Yamuna Expressway, Aniket Kumar, an out-of-work factory hand who was employed at a factory in the Ecotech area, trudged along with only his heavy backpack for company. “I will walk as far as possible. I just have to go to Agra,” he said.

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