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Sarada Lahangir

Migrants’ exodus has started in different parts of the country with the rise of the second wave of Covid-19 Pandemic. Thousands of Migrant labourers working in the big cities of India are quite apprehensive about the lockdown and shutdown which they had experienced last year.

In the last few days, Corona graphs are surging heavily in the state like Maharashtra, Delhi, UP, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The situation of Odisha is also not better off at all. Somewhere, the respective state government has imposed night curfew, somewhere it is limited to weekend lockdown and shutdown to break the Corona Virus chain. This situation forcing thousands of migrants living in the cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Surat, Chennai etc. to stay in an environment of fear and uncertainty.

Desperate To Return

After the announcement of the six-day lockdown in Delhi, there was a huge crowd at the bus stations of Delhi and at the railway station as well. The exodus continued even after the night curfew was implemented. Fearing a lockdown, the migrants desperate to return home, they want to get into trains and buses anyway. The huge crowds are seen outside the Anand Bihar Railway station. Till date also large numbers of people are seen in the bus stops and railway station waiting to board the bus and trains to their destination.

“Our ticket has not confirmed yet still we tried to board the train and anyway will go to our home town. Week long lockdown might increase to months. Where will we get money to pay the house rent? We have suffered a lot last year. ” Hariram (55 years) from Darbhanga district of Bihar is very desperate to return home. Hariram is a roadside vendor, sells Papdi Chat at Munirka area of Delhi. He has been living here since last 10 years. During last Pandemic lockdown he had to sells his small shop to pay the house rent and maintain his family. When the situation got worst they had returned to Darbhanga in a sharing truck paying 10 thousands rupees fare. “When we reached to our village all our saving was exhausted it was very difficult to feed my children. I have returned to Delhi in last December for livelihood and was trying to get back to normalcy but again this happened. This time I do not take chance”. He sounds worried.

In Mumbai the scene is almost same. There is a huge rush of labourers at the railway stations and bus stands in Mumbai. Everyone is afraid of lockdown like last time, so they want to reach their village in time. Rajnikant Rajbhar of UP, who reached Lokmanya Tilak Terminus station, says that business is closed from Holi itself. With this outburst of Corona in Maharashtra, possibility of lockdown cannot be overruled. So it is better to return home than stay here. Rajinikanth works in a mall in Mumbai. Like him, there are thousands of migrants who are struggling to reach the village before the lockdown, given the harsh experience of the previous Corona period.

The Depth Of Migration

The total number of internal migrants in India, as per the 2011 census, is 45.36 crore that counts 37% of the country’s population. This includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state; Internal migrants as percentage of population increased from 30% in 2001 to 37% in 2011. Bulk of the movement (62%) is within the same district. Another 26% is between districts within the same state. Only 12% of movement is inter-state. According to census 2011 data Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have been the major destination states for millions of migrants across India. While the source states are Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. However the recent exodus is largely due to the movement of inter-state Migrants.

Recalling Past

Chandra Mohan, 44, from Gumla, Jharkhand works in a small factory at greater Noida .He has been staying here for last four years, desperate to return. “My family is in Jharkhand. Last year we suffered a lot due to lock down. Our factory got closed and owner did not give us a single money .The house owner was quite decent and he allowed us to live for two months without rent but what would we eat? I had no money left so at the end we had no other option except to return to Jharkhand. Half the way we covered by a lorry. But about 100 kilometers we had to walk and finally reached home after 15 days.” He recalled the last year crisis.

Sunita Sahu, 35, a mother of three children from Chhattisgarh explained her helplessness while talking to ANI. “We were stuck in Faridabad last year, had to struggle for Dal Roti. The person who gave the food packet has taken the photo several times. It was so embarrassing for me. But we had no option, my children were crying for food. We had to tolerate all humiliation.” such a situation should not come in anyone’s life.” Her voice is muffled with tears.

Like Sunita many other labourers also said that during the lockdown, the people who gave food to them were taking their pictures, the migrants had to stand on queue like a beggar, they still could not recover from those bitter memories and trauma. “I have to reach home in any case. You never know when a lockdown will announce. Last year, I walked 300 km to reach home, now I don’t have that much of patience and strength so I want to reach home as early as possible”. Bikash Yadav from Jhansi said to ANI.

The fear of lockdown followed by losing the livelihood can be seen clearly in the eyes of thousands of the migrants who are desperate to go home soon. They say it is better to face the disaster among your loved ones at home than to face the endless misery in the unknown cities, which virtually alienate you during crisis and got lost somewhere.

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