After Tuesday midnight, Nikesh (30) and Sanjay (35) carefully left their homes in West Delhi’s Naraina, carrying bags and wheat sacks with all their belongings, to take a train to Bihar.
However, there was a hurdle. The entrance to the lane where they lived had been sealed after a few coronavirus cases had emerged in May. The two had already booked train tickets for the family, and therefore decided to climb over the barricades and leave in a mini loading van.
“Police are usually not there after midnight. We were desperate to leave because we had no money, even to pay the rent. The shoe factory we worked at has been shut for three months… kaise guzara karte?” said Nikesh at the New Delhi Railway Station in the afternoon, resting on his wheat sacks that contained bedsheets.
This was their second attempt at returning to their village near Patna.
Nikesh had tried to convince policemen to let them go after showing their Covid reports, all negative.
Sanjay was with his two children, waiting for their mother to come from a relative’s house in another van. “There was no work during the lockdown, and no one tells us when it will start. We might come back later some time without the families, because we do not earn enough to afford to keep them here,” he said.
Many such migrant workers were at the Ajmeri Gate entrance of the station on Tuesday, waiting to catch a train to their homes, even as the process of unlocking the economy and the city enters its second phase from July 1.
The station was also returning to the new normal, with porters and drivers in masks waiting outside the Paharganj gate, alongside hawkers selling tea and sanitisers.
Among the people who arrived was Shubham Kumar Singh (18), who was in a boarding school near Bilaspur and could not return home during the lockdown. He would be meeting his family after a year.
“Now that Class XII board exams have been scrapped, what was the point of staying in school?” Singh said.
Many people were also returning to the capital for work, including Shankar Mukhiya (47), who arrived from Bihar and was waiting for a train to a village in Haryana’s Jind district, where he works as a mason.
“I had to return to work at some point,” he said.
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