‘Took loan and went to earn, had to take loan to return’
Ranjit Kumar, 26, of Lakhimpur Kheri’s Chakdaha village had borrowed Rs 20,000 to go to Mumbai in November 2018. He had hoped to find employment there.
Now, after the lockdown consumed jobs and Mumbai reported high number of coronavirus positive patients, Kumar like many other migrant labourers, was forced to return home. “I had taken a loan to go to Mumbai. All that I had earned has been exhausted and now I am in debt,” said Kumar, with a sloppy mask on his face and tears in his eyes.
Several migrant workers now returning to their villages had similar stories to tell. Many of them were seen walking briskly to their villages. “We learnt there are orders not to allow us on roads and railway tracks and if found walking we could be quarantined away from our villages,” said one of them.
Several migrant workers, mostly from Mumbai, were seen walking on Lucknow’s Shaheed Path on way to their villages. The vehicles they took to reach Lucknow left them on the highway during the night from where most of them had to walk their way home. Most of them had exhausted whatever little money was left with them to have food. They said they were jobless for last 50 days. “When our savings were almost exhausted, people said that we should return to our villages. Some left on foot though we managed to hire a truck,” said Dilip Kumar, of Mangrola in Pratapgarh, who had gone to Mumbai to earn livelihood in November, 2018.
Migrant workers said they spent anywhere between Rs 2000 and Rs 3000 to get a cycle to ride their way back. A truck ride cost some of them between Rs 3500 to Rs 4000. “Trucker asked for Rs 4000 but we bargained for Rs. 3500. We were dropped outside Lucknow. There was hardly any space inside the truck which had about 40-45 people,” said Pradeep Raj of Sultanpur, who worked in a construction firm in Mumbai’s Parel area for 15 years. Between 11 pm and 1 am, nearly 200 migrant labourers arrived by trucks bearing Maharashtra registration numbers. They were from different parts of UP. Some of them headed to Prayagraj, others left for Pratapgarh, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sultanpur, Gorakhpur, Barabanki and Sitapur.
“We are not touching anyone, we are also wearing masks. We have reached here from Mumbai and all our savings are exhausted,” said Rajender Singh who was headed to Garwarabazar in Pratapgarh.
A woman was seen riding pillion on a motorcycle, holding her baby tightly to herself. She had been travelling for nearly 6 days on way to Gorakhpur. The motorcycle was driven by her husband Dilip Singh. “There was no one to guide us so we chose to go home by road,” Singh said.