WHEN A team of senior officials landed at the tin shed, which Ajubi Imam Nadaf calls home in Naldurga town of Osmanabad district, help was the last thing she had expected. Late on Wednesday afternoon, the 38-year-old mother of three received a packet of essential foodgrains from a team, which included Saudagar Tandle, the tehsildar of Tuljapur taluka. This was the first time in many days that Ajubi had a smile on her face.
Before the coronavirus outbreak pushed the state into a complete lockdown, Ajubi, her elderly mother and three children were making a living working as daily wage labourers. Like lakhs of other migrant workers, the outbreak and subsequent lockdown forced Ajubi onto the streets with little money in hand. When the money ran out, the family decided to walk to Naldurga, which is Ajubi’s mother’s hometown.
She has little recollection of how many days it took her to walk to Naldurga, where she reached on April 9. Soon after came the news that her husband was terminally ill at a town located around 40 km from Naldurga. With all modes of transport shut, the family again decided to start walking only to find Imam breathe his last on April 11.
It all started when some of the neighbours heard one of Ajubi’s children coughing and soon word went around in the small but thickly populated neighbourhood that the family had contracted the virus in Pune. Even before she realised what was happening, a mob gathered outside her house accusing the family of spreading the virus in the area. All her pleas were in vain, as armed men demanded that she and her children leave the locality immediately. Out of fear, Ajubi and her children took shelter in an open-air shrine outside the locality.
The next morning, the mob returned when she tried returning to her husband’s home. Even police intervention did not help. It was only after some local politicians intervened that the crowd dispersed. She procured permission to travel back to Naldurga and a local scrap dealer volunteered to drop the family to its destination.
Reports in the media alerted the district administration about Ajubi’s situation and it decided to step in. Tandale, along with the block development officer and other officials of the region reached out to her.
“We ensured that she has essential foodgrains for the next 10 days and also left our contact details with her. We have instructed the local administration to see to it that the family is provided with all they want during the lockdown period,” he said.
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