To pedal home, 18 migrants in Mohali sell phones to buy cycles
Desperate to reach home, a group of 18 migrants, all construction labourers living in Sohana, sold their cellphones to buy bicycles in order to pedal home to Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Their stories were similar, about misery, hunger, poverty and being ditched by the employers in time of need.
Ram Niwas, a migrant part of the group of 18, said, “Left with little money and ration, we decided to go back home. No one is stopping people on cycles, so we all sold our cellphones and bought cycles. Once we reach home we can buy new phones.”
For last two years, these migrants had been working at a construction site in Sohana, but were rendered jobless when Punjab imposed the curfew to check spread of the epidemic.
“The last 40 days have been a nightmare,” said Mangal, with the group from Sohana village. Riding cycles that cost them ₹4,200 each, they began the journey back home on Wednesday night.
Apart from their belongings, their backpacks contain ration and a small cylinder, enough to last them over the 359 kms they will be covering.
Although the rising temperature is a cause of worry, they have a plan to beat the heat. “We will cycle mostly at night and take a break when the Sun is at its peak,” said Vicky, who has memorised the names of all important towns they will be crossing on their way, to ensure they do not get lost. He has drawn a rough map of the route back home with the help of the internet.
Determined not to return, Ghanshyam said, “There are many factories in UP, too, so we will get jobs. We had come to Mohali for work, but in the last few days it dawned on us that family is far more important.”
Ram Niwas added that when the curfew was imposed, their contractor disowned them. “He stopped taking our calls. We survived only because we had each other. We shared whatever little resources we had among the group,” said Niwas.
Asked why they did not choose to register online for the Shramik special trains ferrying migrants who wished to go back home, the group said that not everyone who is getting registered is allowed to go back. “We did not want that any of us be left behind. We have been together in this difficult time and together we will reach home safe,” came the reply in a chorus.