Seven migrant workers walk 1,800 km from Mumbai to reach home in Chaibasa
They walked 40 km to 45 km a day, sleeping at petrol pumps, under trees and on the side of highways, braving the fear of being crushed by heavy vehicles.
Sataria Hembrom and six other migrant workers walked almost 1,800 km from Mumbai to reach his home in Chaibasa district in Jharkhand, trekking up to 45 km a day and going without food sometimes.
After exhausting all their hard earned money during the Covid-19 lockdown and finding no other option for survival, the seven men from at Purnapani panchayat left Navi Mumbai, where there worked at a construction site, at 3 am on May 2 on an empty stomach.
They walked 40 km to 45 km a day, sleeping at petrol pumps, under trees and on the side of highways, braving the fear of being crushed by heavy vehicles. They cried in pain on several nights and compromised with hunger on many occasions.
On a few lucky days, they received sympathy from policemen and truck drivers, who helped shorten their journey by giving them a lift in their vehicles.
“We worked at a construction site in Navi Mumbai where work came to a standstill after the announcement of the lockdown. We were surviving on the money we had saved. Gradually, the virus started spreading and ration shops closed down. Then, we had two options – either face the disease on an empty stomach or walk home,” said 31-year-old Hembrom.
Another worker who made the journey with Hembrom, Sahil Kumar Gaud, said they could not sleep for several nights because of fears they might not see their families again. “We decided to go back home on foot. Initially, we had doubts but we had no option,” he said.
After leaving their accommodation on May 2, they walked for nine hours from 3 am to noon on the first day, resulting in blisters on Hembrom’s feet. “He was in extreme pain from the first day,” Gaud said.
“Sometimes, we used to be frustrated thinking we won’t reach our home, as the simmering heat was a major obstacle in our journey,” he added.
Every day, Gaud said, they started their trek at 4 am and walked till noon. “After taking some rest under a tree or at petrol pumps, we walked again from 3 pm till 9 pm. On several nights, we cried in pain but we had no other option.”
Gaud said, “Sometimes, we would eat using the little money we had left at roadside dhabas and sometimes, social workers would feed us.”
He further said, “At some places, police stopped us. But after hearing our story, they put us in their vehicles and helped us shorten the journey. At some places, truck drivers helped us shorten the journey.
“The trek was the toughest in Chhattisgarh, where we got no help, excluding food. We had to cross the entire state on foot. No vehicles helped us in the state,” he added.
The seven men reached Chaibasa at 9 pm on Wednesday, and were screened by the local administration and sent to home quarantine.
Despite the buses and trains organised by the government, thousands of migrant workers have been going home on foot or bicycle. The workers alleged they had no information about the train or bus services when they left the places where they were working.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren, in a statement issued on Thursday, said the state government is making efforts to bring back 685,000 stranded Jharkhand residents in a systematic manner by coordinating with the railways and the Central government. He requested opposition party leaders to urge the Central government to arrange more trains for workers from Jharkhand.