Delhi

Lack of jobs force migrant labourers to return to cities they left in March

The Anand Vihar bus terminal — where thousands of migrant workers had assembled four months back in a desperate bid to return to their home towns after a nationwide lockdown was announced — is again abuzz with labourers, but this time they are desperate to return to the city.

With the lockdown virtually shutting down the economy, labourers said they were “forced” to return to their villages in March; and are now coming back in the “hope” of finding work again.

Migrants who left the capital during the Lockdown period, seen returing from various districts of UP and Bihar at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in New Delhi.

Migrants who left the capital during the Lockdown period, seen returing from various districts of UP and Bihar at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in New Delhi.  

 

Sitting behind a tea stall after reaching the Capital from Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal district, Prem Singh and 32-year-old Nausheen said that lack of income in the last four months had taken a toll on their family.

“There is absolutely nothing to do in the village. No source of income whatsoever for me. I have a family to look after. I have been staying in Delhi for the last 10-15 years and have sustained my family in whatever way I could. But with the lockdown, everything went for a toss. How long can we stay away from work? We have to restart our lives somehow,” said 37-year-old Mr. Singh, a rickshaw puller in Shahdara.

Having just reached the city from U.P.’s Sultanpur district and waiting for a ride to Gurugram, 42-year-old Shashi said: “I was lucky to have left the city a day before the lockdown started. I at least reached home safe. But with not much work there it was becoming difficult to sustain ourselves.”

“We were scared of the virus at that time so went back. But now income is also important. So what option do we have but to risk our lives again and make the journey back,” said Mr. Shashi, who reached the city with his wife and two children.

Lack of jobs force migrant labourers to return to cities they left in March
 

For Sanjay Sharma, from Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district, coming to Delhi was a “way out” of months of distress in the family.

“This is my first time in the city and I have come here with my older brother. The last few months were particularly difficult as my brother returned to the village due to lack of jobs. He was the sole earner of the family. But now that buses have started plying again and people are saying that things are returning to normal, we thought of coming to the city in search of work. I have accompanied him as an extra pair of hands is always helpful for the family,” said the 19 year old.

While a steady stream of daily wagers are returning in search of livelihood, the ones who “survived” lockdown in the Capital are not too hopeful of the current scenario.

Near Okhla Mandi, Yusuf and Anil, both from U.P.’s Bahraich district, said: “We survived the lockdown somehow by lending a hand to vegetable sellers on. But now there is no work whatsoever. There are times when we get work once in five days and earn anything between ₹100-₹200. Rest of the day, we are forced to while away time.”

Lack of jobs force migrant labourers to return to cities they left in March
 

Among the ones who stayed back in the city are those living on the banks of the Yamuna near Kashmere Gate.

While the Delhi government had initially shifted them to government shelters, the labourers said they were “dropped back” at the Yamuna Pushta in June, adding that “social distancing” had proved to be an issue at the shelters.

With work not picking up, the daily wagers also pointed out that the return of migrant workers from U.P. and Bihar had led to employers reducing wages.

Manav, 45, said: “With people from U.P. and Bihar beginning to come back, employers have also started bargaining. Sometimes they are paying us half the amount that we received earlier for a day’s work. Recently, for some construction work which we did, we got around ₹200 instead of the ₹500 which we used to get earlier.”

Manoj Singh, from Darjeeling, said: “There is hardly any work here these days. We are involved in the hotel and wedding industries. With everything shut and no weddings taking place, our work, which ranged from setting up tents to other related stuff, has become redundant. All we can do is sit and hope for a better tomorrow.”


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An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned Gorakhpur as part of Bihar. The place is in Uttar Pradesh.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 9:57:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/they-are-back/article32370322.ece

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