Lockdown: A bitter experience for migrant sweet makers of Karnal
As the 21-day lockdown entered the fourth day on Saturday, a group of 10 people wearing masks and carrying backpacks could be seen walking on the deserted National Highway 44.Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 18:39 IST
The countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has cost migrant sweet makers in Karnal their livelihood, stuck without any means of transportation, the sweet makers have set for their hometown in Agra on foot.
As the 21-day lockdown entered the fourth day on Saturday, a group of around 10 people wearing masks and carrying backpacks could be seen walking on the deserted National Highway 44. They claimed that they had been working with sweetshops in Karnal and Gharaunda for four-five years. However, having run out of money and food, they decided to head to their respective villages in Agra.
They covered 20km in three hours, however they still have to cover a journey of 335 km to reach their homes in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made repeated appeals to the migrant workforce asking them to stay wherever they are during the lockdown, labourers say they cannot stay put as they do not have money to pay their landlords.
“The police was beating up people stepping out for essential items. We do not have food and money to survive for the next three weeks,” said one of the migrant labourers, Rinku of Agra, adding that they started their journey at 3am.
Another youth on the condition of anonymity says, “I was employed in Karnal for the past four years. I provided sweetmeats at hundreds of marriages but nobody is helping us now.”
On how they will reach their homes as the movement of all the trains and buses was banned during the lockdown, he said, “It is better to travel than die here without food and money.”
The labourers said the Uttar Pradesh government was running some buses from Delhi to take migrant labourers to their homes. “Our priority is to reach Delhi. We know till then the government would have taken some steps for the homeless people like us.” a labourer said.
The district administrations on directions of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar have warned factory workers and landlords against asking their workers to vacate their homes during lockdown. The district administration has been told to make appropriate arrangements for setting up medical, stay and food facilities for the migrant labourers working in the state.
Karnal admin launches adopt a family initiative
Hoping to ensure availability of essential items to all poor families, especially migrant labourers, the Karnal district administration has introduced the ‘adopt a family initiative’. Under the initiative the administration has appealed people to bear the expense to supply essential items to a family.
Karnal deputy commissioner Nishant Yadav said all interested parties can adopt a family in the city by paying ₹500 per week for a family’s expense. He also provided bank account numbers where people can deposit their contributions.
He said there were hundreds of families of migrant labourers, rickshaw pullers and construction workers who were unable to get work due to the lockdown and people should come forward to help them at this time of crises.