Hiding from police, trying to walk home in mid-summer heat: Plight of migrants continue

Gaurav Saini

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) Hariram Chaudhary lost his mother five days ago and is impatient to return home in Bihar. He has slept for barely two hours since Sunday morning and has had nothing except 'murmura' (puffed rice).

The 25-year-old and his six co-workers left their rented accommodation in Dwarka Sector 8 on Sunday hoping to catch a train to their native states.

But 30 hours of walking hasn't taken them far.

'My mother died five days ago. I didn't know what to do. I went to the New Delhi Railway Station where a policeman told me all trains had been cancelled,' Chaudhary said.

'Then someone told us that all migrants are going to Chhatarpur to register themselves for free train travel.' Chaudhary and his coworkers spent the night in Chhatarpur along with scores of others, hoping to register themselves for free train travel.

'In Chhatarpur, the policemen drove us away... told us to go back to our place. Where do we go now? We have left the place we were putting up at. The landlord won't allow us back in,' Chaudhary’s roommate 18-year-old Manohar Kumar says.

Dejected, they started walking again and reached the Nizamuddin Bridge, where they have grass underneath and shade above to relax a bit.

The group of migrants worked as labourers at a marble cutting and polishing unit in Dwarka and would earn between Rs 200 and Rs 500 per day.

'There is no work. I haven't earned a single paisa in the last two months. Our employer told us 'no one knows when it will end (lockdown)' and asked us to go home,' Chaudhary says.

He says he owes Rs 6,000 to a kirana shop he purchased ration from.

'I have promised him that I will return and clear the dues when the things become normal,' he says eating 'murmura' out of a polythene bag.

A few metres away, 24-year-old Rohini, a mother of three, is feeding rice to her children.

'My husband worked as a painter in Ashok Nagar. He has been jobless since the lockdown started. On Sunday, we set out for our hometown Budaun in Uttar Pradesh and reached the Ghazipur border,' she says.

'We were among hundreds who had gathered there. They (policemen) coaxed us to board a bus, saying we will be taken to a shelter home. The bus dropped us near India Gate. Like us, many others were asked to get down on secluded roads,' she claims.

A tempo driver gave lift to the family and dropped them near the bridge on seeing police, she says, trying to hide from an approaching policeman.

'They treat us like garbage. We are not humans for them,' she says, cradling her six-month-old girl.

Back home in her village in Budaun, Rohini says, his father-in-law lives alone.

'He cannot see properly... We would have reached our village days ago, but we feared police would quarantine us. We cannot wait anymore. Who knows when buses will start. My father is waiting for us,' her husband, Anil, says. PTI GVS NSD NSD