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Migrant workers struggle to feed families, stare at unpaid rents

PUBLISHED ON MAY 31, 2020 11:37 PM IST

Navi Mumbai Migrant workers, who left their hometowns hoping for a better life in the city, have been forced by the coronavirus lockdown to stare at an uncertain future.

Belapur-based Sajan Jha, 35, worked at a restaurant as a cashier until it shut down due to the lockdown. Jha lives with his wife and two daughters, one aged three years and another nine months. He had returned with his family from Darbhanga in Bihar only a few weeks before the lockdown.

“One day, a local Gurudwara provided us food, it lasted for a while, another time an NGO provided milk powder for my daughter. We have almost run out of money and I am mainly worried for milk for my young daughter,” said Jha.

Jha then sent out a message to a friend seeking ration for his family and 14 others in his area, all of whom have been struggling to make ends meet. The message found its way to Navi Mumbai police on Sunday and within hours, the police provided rations to the families.

“I cannot put food on my plate while my neighbour starves. We are worried about the future. We will face hunger for a while but will not leave Mumbai. We will not get work back home,” Jha said.

Manish Singh, 36, is also on the same boat. Singh worked at a restaurant and only a few days before the lockdown was set to start his own small canteen. His family lives in Uttarakhand and he tried to return on the Shramik Special train, but his name wasn’t listed.

Singh said he will wait it out until lockdown is over before returning home.

“The canteen may not start. I will find something in the village. In hindsight, I think it is okay to stay hungry for some time rather than die like animals trying to get back home. When I get ration and cook for myself, I share it with someone needy in the area,” he said

Ravindra Prasad, 40, and his wife stay with their nine-year-old twins – a boy and a girl - in Belapur on rent. For three months, Prasad has not paid his monthly rent. The landlord has not come asking for money but Prasad knows he will have to arrange the money soon.

He used to run a snacks cart and would earn Rs 12,000 per month. After the cart was shut, Prasad does not know what the future holds except his option to return to Bihar.

“I will have to return home with my family. I will work at a farm and earn whatever little I can. We are daily wage workers, we cannot sit at home for six months and eat peacefully,” said Prasad.

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