Left jobless by lockdown, workers on long march home

Badaun/Aligarh (UP), March 26 (PTI) A group of young men was forced by police to hop like frogs on a Badaun road for “violating” lockdown orders, the “punishment” reflecting the tough time migrant labourers face as measures to fight coronavirus leave them jobless.

The three or four men seen in a video clip are among hordes making their way to their homes in Uttar Pradesh after losing the jobs they held in the bigger towns and cities.

Workers from New Delhi and the adjacent cities of Noida and Ghaziabad are trickling into Aligarh, many of them after covering the nearly 150 km distance on foot.

In the Badaun case, for which a policeman faces departmental action, the youths were returning to their villages in the district from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.

Some people on motorcycles and on foot are also seen in the video, but the policeman appears to focus only on the youths, waving a lathi at them.

Badaun’s Senior Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar Tripathi has regretted the “foolish” action by an “inexperienced” member of his force.

In Aligarh, factory worker Vaqil, who is in his twenties, said he started out on foot after his employer in Dadri told him there was no work for him.

Etah’s Amal Kumar headed home from Noida when asked not to come to work from Sunday.

His employers told him to stay put in his room, but did not say whether he will be paid anything.

Whatever food he had prepared for the journey is over and he said he needs help before he reaches his home.

Pradip Kumar who worked as tailor in a Noida company was asked to leave soon after the lockdown was announced.

“I have been walking for a day and a half now,” he said. The worker is heading Kasganj where his brother is in the police.

Pradip Kumar claimed his employer washed his hands off any responsibility towards the workers, saying he could not help them.

Another man hopesd to make the 350 km journey to Jhansi on foot “in a week”. 'There is no work because of corona. We are about 30 people in all. We will cook our own food on the way,' he said.

Some others were seen asking local people in Aligarh to help them contact their families in neighbouring districts.

There are also reports of workers in Delhi, Noida and Greater Noida leaving for their hometowns as far away as Banda, about 600 km from the national capital.

A group of 16 has already covered a distance of over 400 km, reaching Jhansi on the way to Banda.

Labourers with homes in villages around Etawah, Bareilly and Agra are also trying to walk home, reports said.

Some labourers travelling from Delhi to Muzaffarpur in Bihar have reoprtedly reached Agra.

They, however, got support from the local administration which provided them food and water, reports said.

According to a government spokesperson, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed the administration to provide food and transport to migrant labourers and help them reach their destinations.

Adityanath came to know of their plight through the media, he said. PTI CORR SAB ASH ASH