Workers from Tamil Nadu reach home after 50 days of lockdown in Mumbai

The workers said their savings had drained due to the lockdown, and they had been finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet

K. Veeralakshmi (25) of Melavalavu, who got married five months ago, went to Mumbai with her husband, with the dream of a new life.

With her husband, Kandasamy, driving a call taxi, she began selling garments in Matunga and the couple had made a good beginning. “That was the first time I had been to Mumbai. With mostly Tamil-speaking people living in our area, I did not face much of a language problem,” she said. The young couple was making a maximum of ₹1,000 a day.

Just as things were looking good for them, the COVID-19 lockdown came as a jolt to their livelihood.

“My husband could not drive the taxi, nor could I sell the garments. Our earnings came to a standstill,” she said. However, with the modest savings they had, the couple managed the 48-days of lockdown.

With the neighbouring Dharavi reporting an increased number of infections, she was concerned about their safety.

Meanwhile, a few groups of Tamils from southern districts, especially from Virudhunagar, moved the officials in Thane seeking permission for them to return home.

“We visited the local police station every day seeking permission. But, the police kept telling us that we did not get the necessary permission from Tamil Nadu government,” said one of the group leaders, S. Subburaj (46), of Pandalgudi.

Out of the 30 persons working under him, 15 of them had left before the lockdown. “The rest of us thought that the lockdown was only for one day and stayed back and it unexpectedly went on for 50 days,” he added.

With no work and no earnings, the team was languishing in two small rooms. However, Mr. Subburaj managed to get money from home and fed his team mates. “We cooked our food. Hence, we managed. However, with the extended lockdown, we were all mentally tired,” he said.

Family members back home kept asking them to return as they feared about their safety. “Children started crying over the phone and we badly wanted to go back home,” he added.

Later, the workers called their elected representatives – Virudhunagar MP, B. Manickam Tagore, MLAs, K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, and Thangam Thennarasu. “They helped us get the e-pass with the consent of Tamil Nadu government,” said Mr. Subburaj.

The Congress MP also got help from his partymen in Mumbai to foot part of their travel bill.

For Ms. Veeralakshmi, by then her savings had drained. “We got money from our home [in Madurai] for our travel expenses,” said Ms. Veeralakshmi.

All of them arrived in Virudhunagar on Thursday and have been kept in a quarantine facility. Only after landing in Tamil Nadu, have the workers heaved a sigh of relief.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 3:11:56 AM |

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