Even as they have been cycling for the last six days, rather than exhaustion, the six migrant workers felt a sigh of relief on Thursday evening when they crossed over to Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh district—their home state.
The migrant workers, who have started their journey at 2 am on Saturday from Sahara Darwaza in Surat to Fatehpur in UP, amid the COVID-19 lockdown, have covered about 935 kilometres until Thursday evening,
It will be another 320-odd kilometres until they reach home, which they expect to cover by Sunday morning.
The group which has crossed Guna in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday afternoon, decided to skip the state check post and detour from a hamlet near the MP-UP border.
“We experienced one near impounding of our cycles at the Gujarat MP border. The officers were kind enough to not send us to some shelter. They told us to go back. So this time, we consulted some villagers and realised that detouring after Kudraya village (in Datia district), about 20 kilometres from Jhansi, will be the best option. We were warned that there will be a thick forest area on the route but we are okay with that,” said Vikram Rai, one of the migrants.
The group had begun their journey at around 3 am on Thursday from Kharai village in Shivpuri, where they had last halted on Wednesday night.
“We cycled continuously with adequate breaks from 3am to about 12 pm to reach the outskirts of Karera. We decided to take a break for the afternoon near a local temple, where the pujari offered us lunch,” he said.
The group said that they were questioned by many people on the way and have been cautious about riding together.
“In many villages, people asked us who we were and where were we going. In a village, a Panchayat member told us that he will call the authorities to help us. He even offered us a meal but we were so scared that despite being hungry we told him we had eaten. Now, we are keeping a distance of at least 500-800 meters from each other to avoid being seen as a group,” he says.
“At many places where we stopped to fill our water bottles, people curiously asked us about the cycles. They wanted to know where we managed to buy cycles during the lockdown. At one place, a generous village head even handed over some packets of dry namkeen and biscuits to us,” Rai said.
The workers have decided to never return to Gujarat for work.
“This situation has made us realise that there is nothing more important than being with family. My family has a small farm and I will work there,” Rai added.
They informed their families about their journey only Thursday, which made the family members “angry and worried”.
“My father gave me an earful and my mother immediately started sobbing and asking me to be careful. Later, they also called back and said the villagers are advising that we must be kept in 14 days isolation at a health centre since we are coming from Gujarat. What is the point of undertaking such a long journey if I have to reach home and be in isolation. We are going back to be with our families. I know my father will slap me the moment he sees me, but I am waiting for it,” Rai said.
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