Amid lockdown due to the epidemic of Coronavirus, a massive migration of laborers is taking place across big cities of this country. In the absence of transport services, they are scaling this long distance by walking. These daily wagers can hardly survive in cities without any source of income. Men, women, children and elderlies, all are moving towards their home. This might remind of migration during Partition 1947. But, for me, it is somewhat similar to those lakhs of migrations that are taking place probably every day.
Once, my grandmother was telling me about how she and my grandfather came to Delhi with my father and his siblings. She told me about their initial days of struggle in this big city of opportunities. Heart-breaking pictures of people walking on roads and railway tracks can melt anybody’s heart.
What makes them live away from home?
It won’t be wrong to say that, “You can find a Bihari from Kashmir to Kanyakumari”. People of Bihar live outside and many of them work as laborers in cities across the country. It happens because Bihar still lacks in education and giving employment.
It is still a state which largely depends on agriculture and that rarely becomes helpful for all in the scenario of prevailing Casteism in the state. Climate plays an important role as these migrants are mostly the ones, whose houses are washed away in floods every year. So, to find a better option of livelihood they move to cities.
Most of these migrants work as laborers on daily wages. But, this lockdown for 21 days has left them in a feeling of uncertainty about their future. No source of income now, they have to empty their rented home because they can’t pay rent or the landlord is not ready to let them live there until this crisis ends.
“Coronavirus may kill us later but, we will die of hunger before that”
On 24 March 2020 PM Mr. Narendra Modi, announced 21 days of lockdown to save India from Coronavirus. An amazing step indeed, because staying inside is the only precaution to cope with Coronavirus. But, that has put these people in a dilemma of what will they survive, if everything gets closed and there is no source of income through labor?
The government announced relief programs and promised to give ration at minimal prices. Delhi Government also announced that they will be providing free food and space at Night Shelters to all homeless people. But, most of these migrants either haven’t got this information or they are not in a state to believe in anything but the will to reach their home as soon as possible.
Those who send money home and are living away from family, they anyhow want to reach and be with their loved ones at any cost. Because, not just they, but their family is also facing the same situation as they are facing here in the city. Whoever you ask, they will say, “we have no money to live in the city and now we are going back home”.
This situation has been created because of an unorganized lockdown. It seemed that these people were forgotten while taking this decision of a strict lockdown and that’s what resulted in the sea of sad faces, just walking with a hope that they will win over these long roads and scale the distance of 700-900 Kilometers.
It was joy when on Chhath, but…
Well, it is a coincidence that this is exactly the same as when many people are supposed to go back to Bihar for their most important festival, Chhath Pooja. Chaitra Chhath Puja started on 28 March and will end with “Sandhya Arag” on 31 March.
This was supposed to be the time when people would go back to their home, celebrate the festival with family and relatives and share their stories of living in cities. But, this time seems difficult for them. Many in the state might be planning for this festival and they will for sure pray for the betterment of these people.
This is not just the story of Bihar, but adjoining states are also facing the same. Uttar Pradesh also has a number of people, working in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. This chain of migrants include people from these adjoining states as well. Now the bus service has started to help migrants. Yet, they are very large in numbers so, the Government should take the responsibility to make these people reach home safely. There should be a plan to help these migrants, their families and also those who still are homeless.
SpiceJet has shown it’s humanitarian values by offering to fly migrants from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna if the Government agrees.
Being in the uncertainty of opting for a language to start writing this, I reach a conclusion of doing it in English. Because, the privileged population who might be saying that, “these people are fools and roaming even after knowing how dangerous this Coronavirus is”. Let’s hope for the best and understand that “Hunger” is more dangerous than any other disease.
– Khushboo Kumari (Writer is a journalism student at University of Delhi)
Cover Photo: Reuters