Friday, January 28, 2022



The migrants tale: Yet to reach home, but ready to return again

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Lucknow/Rae Bareli, May 11, 2020-

A truck, packed to capacity with food grains, stops at a tiny eatery, being run from behind a tin shed on the Lucknow-Rae Bareli road, about 35 kilometers from the state capital.

About 43 people sitting atop the truck shout out to the tea-seller for water. The tea-seller asks them to come down from the truck but they refuse.

“Neeche aaye to jagah chali jayegi (If we do that we lose our spot),” shouts a scruffy young man, standing atop the truck.

He is Bhushan, 34, and is heading towards his home in Azamgarh.

He was working as a motor mechanic in Satara in Maharashtra. When Lockdown2.0 began, he travelled to Mumbai on a bicycle with a friend.

“I waited for the lockdown to end but when it was extended again, my friends and I decided to return home,” he says from the top of the truck.

Bhushan and his friends left Mumbai on foot on May 2.

“We walked a long distance and hitched a ride on trucks. Some drivers were kind enough to give us a lift and some rudely turned us away. In between, we even rested wherever food and water were being distributed,” he says.

Bhushan and his friends are blissfully unaware of the sops being given to migrant workers by the state government.

“Humko to kuchh nahin mila (we did not get anything),” he says nonchalantly and even brushes aside the Corona scare with, “Corona kya karega? Marna hoga to mar jayenge (What can corona wreak, if death is in our destiny now, it will strike).”

The group is not even aware of the fact that they will be quarantined when they reach their villages. ‘Yeh kya hota hai (What is that)?” asks Kamlesh Pathak, 30, who was working in a garment factory in Navi Mumbai before the lockdown.

The truck driver, meanwhile, asks the group to come down and get refreshed.

For the next half an hour, the boys take a bath at a nearby tube well.

They refuse to be photographed- ‘police pakad legi (we will be arrested),” says one of them.

Among the lot, they say they have only Rs 310 left.

The tea-seller takes only Rs 100 and gives them each a cup of tea and ‘samosa’. He does not even ask for the remaining amount.

The tea seller, Uday Kumar, says thoughtfully, “These are tough times. Mushkil waqt hai-insaan ki madad to insaan hi karega (Only a human can be sympathetic to the other).”

As the group climbs back on the top of the truck which they boarded in Madhya Pradesh, the truck driver quietly says that the policemen created trouble at some check posts.

“I ask these men to lie down flat so that they are not seen by the police. I am going to Jaunpur and will drop them there. From there, they will have to manage on their own,” he says.

The men have not informed their families about their journey.

“Mobile mein paisa nahin hai, phone discharge bhi ho gaya hai (Our cell phone batteries are discharged and we did not have the money to recharge the accounts),” says Bhushan.

Most of them, meanwhile, are ready to return to their work once the lockdown is lifted.

“What will we do here? We have to go back and find some work there? We went to Maharashtra only because there was no work here,” says Kamlesh and adds that his owner has said that he will be informed when the factory resumes work.

The group, most of them in their thirties, have only one regret — they are not taking back money to their families this time.

“All our savings have finished in ensuring our survival in the lockdown. For the first time, I am returning home without even a packet of sweets for my three sisters,” says one of the men, Surjit, who belongs to Ballia district.  (Agency)

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