Stranded labourers on Yamuna banks bank on hope

Migrant workers have made the banks of Yamuna river their home during the week-long lockdown.   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

For the hundreds of migrant workers who continue to reside on the banks of the Yamuna, the week-long lockdown imposed by the Delhi government to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases, has been all too similar to conditions, which prevailed exactly a year back – when they were stranded at the same place without work.

Less than five km away from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence, the daily wagers said that the only aid they have received since the lockdown began was from a gurdwara in the vicinity that provided cooked meals twice a day.

Ashok Kumar, who hails from Aligarh, said: “There is no provision of food or shelter for us from the government. We have been surviving on cooked meals provided by volunteers from the gurdwara. They are the only one who look after us and provide us meals. The shelters have become so crowded that it becomes impossible to stay there. So we have no other option, but to idle our time away on the banks of the Yamuna.”

Like Mr. Ashok, 42-year-old Sanjay Kumar, who hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, rued about lack of work in the run-up to the lockdown, which left them without any means to return to their villages.“We are engaged in work that involves weddings. That is our main source of income. But due to this virus, that industry has been badly affected and most weddings are held adhering to restrictions. We have not been able to earn much in the last few months. So how can we even think of buying tickets and returning?,” said Mr. Kumar.

While most are aware of the COVID-19 protocols, which are required to be followed, the workers complained that no provisions were made to distribute masks among them.

When found without a mask, Raju Singh, from Bihar’s Samastipur district, said: “We are daily wagers. If I have no earning, how am I supposed to buy masks and sanitisers? Some have managed to get a few masks, but there has been no proper distribution that I have seen since the time I have been here. I reached Delhi a month back in search of work. While last year I had returned during the lockdown period, this time I could not arrange enough money for the tickets.”

The workers are just hoping that this lockdown is not extended like earlier.

Hari Mohan, from Odisha’s Mayubhanj district, said, “The government said that things will open up in a week. That is our only hope at the moment. We don’t have enough means to go back. We hope that the lockdown is not extended.”

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 5:14:06 PM |

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