'Will Not Come Back, Even if I Starve': Stranded at Delhi-UP Border, Migrant Workers Wait For Help
Representative image. (Reuters)
Vijay Kumar, a jobless factory worker, waited for hours along with his wife and two children under a flyover at Ghazipur, hoping to get a bus to his home town Sitapur after police stopped them at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Sunday.
The 28-year-old, who said he was not paid since March by the footwear factory in Tikri, Gurgaon where he was employed, started the 600-km journey to his hometown on Saturday evening, walking with his wife Suman, daughter Arushi (2) and son Sunny (4).
Kumar was among the hundreds of migrant factory workers, daily wagers, street vendors, all rendered jobless due to the coronavirus lockdown, who were heading towards their homes in states like UP and Bihar but were stranded on the Delhi border after the police stopped them from walking on foot for their onward journey.
With worry and despair writ large on their faces, many said there was no reason for them to stay back.
"There was no way but to go back to Sitapur because I was paid nothing since March," said Kumar.
"I thought I will catch a bus on the UP border. But there is no transport here. I just have around Rs 700 and there is little help from anyone. If nothing is available, I will walk with my family to go to Sitapur," said the desperate man.
Anil Soni, a house painter by profession, too tried to cross Delhi-UP border along with his family when the policemen stopped them.
"I lost work because of lockdown and coronavirus, because people do not want any unknown person to enter their homes," he said.
Accompanied by his wife and three children, the youngest just ten months old, Soni hoped to make it to his home in Badayun in UP.
"I will not come back here even if I have to beg at home. This is no life. Can you tell me what am I supposed to do. Policemen do not allow us to go ahead and there are no buses or trains even if one is ready to buy a ticket," he said, the frustration palpable in his voice.
The dirt and filth covered area under the flyover at the border served as a temporary shelter for the stranded migrants as policemen did not allow them to enter Ghaziabad.
"We have been directed to ensure that no person without proper authorisation crosses the border. There is nothing we can do for these people," said a Delhi police officer present on the spot.
Food and water was arranged by some social organisations and members of Youth Congress for the stranded people whose only worry was to reach home.
Among them was a group of eight farm labourers trying to reach Bahraich in UP on their cycles.
I have nothing with me now, because I used Rs 4,000 for purchasing this bicycle. Now the policemen are saying to keep it at the police station and go to a shelter of Delhi government. I am not going anywhere, I will not move from here," said 21-year-old Babloo.
The group worked at a farmhouse in Najfagarh from where they were evicted by the owner after the wheat crop was harvested.
"We have our own fields in Bahraich but we came here to earn some cash. I will not do this ever again, even if I starve at home," said Naresh, one of the eight sharing five bicycles.
Two teenagers walked from Panipat in Haryana, hoping to reach their home in Gorakhpur.
"Can I get a train? We walked from Panipat thinking we will catch a bus or truck. I have heard that government has started trains," said 18-year-old Ankit who ran a food stall in Panipat before the coronavirus lockdown started on March 25.
Shramik special trains are being run since May 1 to take the migrants back to their native states, but a large number of people have not been able to avail the facility.
Buses have also been arranged by some states, still they have been inadequate forcing the migrants to trek for hundreds of kilometres or travel in crowded trucks and other vehicles on long perilous road journeys.
After a collision between a truck and trailer, which were ferrying migrants, left at least 26 dead in Auraiya, the Uttar Pradesh government had directed border districts to not allow any such movement, and to make provision of buses for such stranded people.