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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Tired of lockdown extensions, migrants who stayed back in Delhi head home

With the city now its fifth week of lockdown, and money dwindling, they too decided to head back.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: May 23, 2021 10:20:41 am
Delhi, Covid-19Migrant labourers leaving Delhi after a seven-day lockdown call by the Delhi government, at Anand Vihar bus terminal in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

A month since Delhi went into lockdown, migrants continue to head home from Anand Vihar inter-state bus terminus — albeit in smaller numbers. Several workers The Indian Express spoke to said most of their friends and family members had left when the restrictions were first announced on April 19 while they had decided to stay. With the city now its fifth week of lockdown, and money dwindling, they too decided to head back.

On Monday evening, Naresh Choudhury (49) waited for a bus going to Meerut. He used to do welding work in Seemapuri, which came to halt over a month ago. Last year, he had left when the lockdown was first announced. This year, however, he kept waiting, hoping that he would be paid his dues. “I stay at the warehouse itself. I was waiting for the lockdown to be lifted or to be paid my dues. I was given Rs 5,000 in installments. I kept sending a little bit home to my wife and children. The owner still owes me Rs 5,000 more,” he said.

Others who worked with him, many from Bihar and West Bengal, had left a month ago as they expected the lockdown to last longer. The rest of his family is in Uttar Pradesh, where they have a home but no land. Carrying a shoulder bag, which contained all his necessities, he said he was unsure of when he would return to the city.

Meanwhile, cases of Covid-19 rising in his hometown also added to his fears: “Corona se nahi marenge, toh bhook se marenge… bhook se nahi, toh corona se.”

For Faisal Khan (27) and his wife, the biggest hurdle in Delhi is paying rent. The couple had packed five small bags and said they will stay at home in UP’s Rampur, where their families live, till the lockdown is lifted. Faisal works as a building painter and used to earn Rs 15,000 a month while his wife is a homemaker.

He said, “We used to stay in Jahangirpuri and paid Rs 3,000 as rent. Despite work coming to a standstill during the lockdown, the landlord kept pressing us for the money. Unlike last year, there is no free ration in schools either.” They do not have land back home but said ration is cheaper and easily available.

Brijesh Yadav (35), on the other hand, said he will help his family with farming — they have around 3 acres — back in UP’s Banda district. In the city, he used to work as a truck driver around Nangloi. “There is barely any work here and I have to pay rent. The rest of my family is back home,” he said, adding that he will come back only when the lockdown is lifted.

Meanwhile, a man who sells bag and dress zippers said Anand Vihar was very crowded till a month ago. Normally, he would earn Rs 300-500 in a day. Now, he earns Rs 100-150 in a day as there are only a few outbound passengers and no inbound passengers.

Seeing people leaving reminded him of hometown in UP too. “It would cost at least Rs 400 to go back, which I cannot afford. There are so many who are going back because they cannot survive here. And then there are people like us, who cannot survive and, yet, don’t have any option but to stay,” he said.

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