Migrant family travels home on cycle cart, `rickshaw' now a reminder of tough times

Mahoba (UP), Jun 5 (PTI) Ramcharan says he will never part with the cycle cart on which he and eight members of his family pedalled home from Delhi to their village here. He will keep the “rickshaw” as a reminder of what they went through.

The construction worker lost his job when the Centre declared a lockdown from March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus.

When it became tough to survive in the national capital, the family decided to go home to Bara village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba district, where Ramcharan owns a small, two-bigha piece of land.

“There was no transport and fellow labourers started heading for their homes on foot,” he recalled.

When Ramcharan asked the building contractor for help, he gave him a cycle cart used for ferrying sand and cement for free.

The family loaded some of their belongings on to the cart on May 7. Their group included his six-year-old son Ramashankar; brother-in-law Munnilal (35), sister-in-law Neelam and the couple’s five-year-old son Mangal; nephew Jagat (20) and his wife and two sons.

'On the 600-km journey, we faced lathis from police at several places but police in Kosikalan showed humanity,” he said.

“They gave food to all nine of us and put us on a truck along with our rickshaw for Agra,” he said. From there, they were on the cart again, reaching home on May 14.

“The three men took turns to pedal the cart and often the women also helped when we were tired,' he said.

Ramcharan is holding on to the cart.

'This rickshaw is a memento of the lockdown. Had this rickshaw not been there, we wouldn’t have reached home. I will cherish it for my entire life. I will not let anyone touch it,” he said, overcome by emotion.

Ramcharan left home for the city in January after his wife Chanda died of cancer. He needed work to pay off a loan of Rs 1 lakh he had taken from local moneylenders for the treatment. But the treatment also ended when the money ran out.

He took his six-year-old son along to Delhi, leaving five-year-old daughter Aarti and 12-year-old son Dayashankar with his mother Rajji in the village. He worked in the city as a “beldar” at a construction site till the lockdown.

Back home now, he has found work at a brick kiln but that doesn’t pay enough. He is yet to get a job card to get work under MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee scheme.

“I have got a ration card and I get five kilos of wheat or rice from the ration shop every month,' he added.

According to village pradhan Bhagwandass Shriwas, 168 migrant workers have returned to Bara after the lockdown. PTI CORR ABN ASH ASH