As the lockdown to contain coronavirus continues across India, stories of migrant workers walking on foot to get home have been reported from across the country.
One such story has now emerged from West Bengal, where the lockdown has effectively begun a day earlier than the rest of the country.
Thirteen migrant workers, who used to work as daily wagers in a factory in West Bengal's Howrah, have set out on foot to reach their village homes in different states after the factory shut down.
The workers, who have been walking for four days, were abandoned by their contractor once the factory shut down. The factory belongs to a private firm that manufactures TMT bars.
The Quint got in touch with these workers when they'd walked over 200 km from Howrah to Bengal's Asansol.
"We don't have anything to eat. The people at the place we were staying were also shooing us away", said Lal Bahadur, one of the workers, walking to his home in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
""We would much rather die of the walking than starvation. What will poor people like us say to the government? The rich are getting the disease from abroad and poor people like us are dying without any food."" - Lal Bahadur to The Quint
THREAD: Some more stories to take people out of their privileged bubbles. This is Lal Bahadur. He & 13 others started walking home from Howrah, WB after their factory shut. He's walking to Varanasi. This video was taken in Asansol. They've already walked over 200 kms! @TheQuint pic.twitter.com/HsVshjPi6X— Ishadrita Lahiri (@ishadrita) March 30, 2020
It's a similar story for Gopal Pandit, who is walking to Bihar's Lakkhi Sarai.
"The shops are not giving us ration. We are out of the food we had. We are also out of money," says Pandit.
"Our contractor left without giving us our wages for the last few days of work. We are now not getting any mode of transport. Anybody we ask for help says that the borders have been locked. If we are caught then we will all go to jail," he added.
The workers were given temporary shelter and food by a club in Asansol. This was the first full meal they had in four days.
"We saw them walking on the highway and asked them to eat. We were feeding destitutes over the past few days, and thought that we should help these people in whatever way we can", said Rahul Chowdhury, a member of the club.
This crisis for migrant workers comes at a time when the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked everyone to stay in the state that they are in. The state governments have also been instructed to organise food and accommodation for stranded workers.
In multiple addresses to the press, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also assured that workers from other states who are stuck in Bengal will be taken care of. She has also written to Chief Ministers of 18 states to do the same for Bengal workers stuck there.
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