New Delhi/Sonepat, May 18 (PTI) After waiting for 14 hours in the summer heat with his 10-month-old child, Kuldeep Kumar, a migrant labourer, was finally able to get on a bus to his home town in Rae Bareli on Monday evening.
'I just want Divyanshi, my daughter, to be safe,' he says pointing to the infant in his wife Aarti's lap.
A day after the local administration announced that buses will leave for Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of migrant workers like Kumar and their families gathered at a ground in Kundli Industrial Area.
Many of them worked in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) located in the area, which now looks like a ghost town with trucks parked outside manufacturing units that are shut due to the coronavirus lockdown.
With temperatures crossing over 40 degrees Celsius, many were tired and dehydrated as they waited with bleary eyes for their buses to take them home.
The local administration tried to provide food and water, but it was not enough to sustain the people gathered there.
There was no toilet facility either, making it difficult for women and elderly.
The lines were segregated district-wise, but migrant workers and their family members, including the elderly, were standing in close proximity, despite fears of spread of the infection. The 'gamchas' acted as masks and protection from heat.
For them, the bigger fear was staying back as there was no money left, many mouths to feed and rents to pay.
“Back home, at least I don't have to bother about paying rent,” said Kumar.
Rajput Singh (35) was going back home to his village in Uttar Pradesh with three children and wife Sunita (30).
“It is difficult to sustain here now. We will try to come back when the lockdown ends,” Singh said, covering his head with a gamcha. His children including three-year-old Nitin were covered with a thin layer of cloth to protect them from the scorching heat.
Asha Devi (40) and Dilip Gupta (45) had paid rent to their landlord in Sersa village on the Delhi-Haryana border on Sunday after the village sarpanch announced that buses will take them to their home state the next morning. The couple left the house at 4 AM and walked 3 kilometers to reach a crossing at the Kundli Industrial estate adjoining the Delhi border.
But more than 12 hours after they left home, there was no sight of the bus that would take their hometown in Kushi Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. Asha Devi had come to Sersa just before the lockdown so that she can get herself treated for chest pain. But for nearly two months her woes have only increased after he her husband Gupta, a daily wager, lost his job. 'We boarded a bus, travelled a few kilometers and then we were dropped at the Kundli bus stop,' she said looking drained due to exhaustion and heat. Back home, they have three young children and a mother-in-law waiting for them. PTI PR RT