Migrant labourers press panic button, find ways to head home

Migrant workers sitting on the roof of a bus passing through Ghaziabad on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Despite the Capital literally locked down with checkposts on all major roads preventing people from moving out without a reason, inter-state transport hubs were brimming with migrant workers making a desperate dash for their home States.

While at Anand Vihar ISBT and railway station the crowd had thinned from the footfall soon after the lockdown was announced, migrant workers continued to try and find ways to manage transport to ferry them out of the city. Some had camped overnight at the terminal hoping to find a commute to reach home while hundreds continued to arrive.

Mohd. Faizan, a resident of Gaya who is a construction supervisor, said he did not have a confirmed ticket but was willing to pay “double fine” to reach home as his employer had told him that he was not going to be paid during the week. “My employer clearly told me that I will not be paid. What is the use of staying back? If things get better, I can return within a few days but without work, what is the point of staying back? We are only here to earn money,” said Mr. Faizan, adding that he was scared of the virus but getting infected at home was better than falling ill in the city.

Deja vu

For many, the announcement of the six-day lockdown took them back to last year’s lockdown when trains and buses were halted immediately. “With no income, what will we do staying here? This virus has ruined our lives and will ruin it further. My family tells me that the situation back home is not as bad as it is in Delhi, so I am going home. Most people are here out of fear and are willing to take the risk of travelling home,” said Prashant, who works as a help in a hardware shop, and is looking to head back to Almora.

With autorickshaws still allowed to ply, people arriving at transport hubs were taking them till the nearest barricade and walking to the station from there. Mahesh Kumar, an auto driver, said that police at barricades were taking a humane view on those trying to reach transport hubs.

“I am on the road because I also need to run my house. Many people taking autos want to go to hospitals or clinics. It was the same during the weekend as well. I am putting myself at risk, but I want to earn a living while I still can drive my auto,” Mr. Kumar said.

Long queues

At the New Delhi Railway Station, long queues had formed outside with people jostling to get onto a home-bound train. Those without a ticket were hopeful to get access to the platform and board a train heading out of the city but said that they were determined to leave the city as staying back was pointless.

“Trains and buses are still running. It is better to leave now than getting stuck here for a long time. I do not believe in the assurances by the govt. that they will not extend it. Have they even announced that they will provide shelter and food? We are on our own and it is better to head home while we still can,” said Ram Kishan, waiting for a train to Darbhanga. He adds that once he has made it to the train station, he will find some “jugaad” to get home.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 10:49:47 PM |

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