“We are ready to die of starvation,” says Shivam Kumar, a migrant worker at a relief camp in Vadadora.
Kumar and several other workers from Uttar Pradesh lodged at the camp refused to have their meals on Thursday to register their protest. And they have only one demand: send them back to their homes.
Kumar (18), a native of Etawah in UP, had set off from Karjan in Vadodara along with nine others to their home state, when he was brought to this under construction building for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) on March 28 after the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed. Follow Coronavirus India LIVE Updates
As migrant labourers from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were sent off to their homes in buses on April 25, the wait to go home for these labourers from UP now feels even longer.
“It has been a month and two days since we are here. We haven’t said anything so far. But now we cannot handle it anymore. I want to go back and see my mother,” Kumar says.
This was one of the first relief camps set up in the city to house these migrants who had started their journeys from various cities of the state to their native states of UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan.
On Thursday afternoon the police intervened and announced over a loudspeaker that they will be sent back home and should not skip eating.
“Their only demand is that they want to be sent back home. We have tried to intervene and have urged them to eat but they have refused. But never the less we will keep trying,” said VP Chauhan, Inspector at Bapod police station.
Meanwhile, the district administration awaits confirmation from the respective state governments to send back the migrant labourers.
“We are ready to send them back but there are certain protocols to be followed. There was confirmation from MP and Rajasthan but there has been no confirmation from UP and Bihar regarding sending back their natives. As soon as we receive a confirmation we will send them back,” said VMC Commissioner Nalin Upadhyay.
Another labourer Babloo Chaudhary recalls the exhilarated call he had made to his home on April 25 when the first batch of migrants from were sent back to their native places.
“I informed my wife and children and they were very happy. But every day we were told that we would be allowed to go next day. Now every passing day feels longer than the previous one,” Chaudhary said. He had his last meal on Wednesday evening — a bowl of khichadi.
Around 25 members at the relief camp are from the Muslim community who are finding it difficult to observe fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
For 20-year-old Mohammad Arif from Kanpur, this is the first time that he could not fast during this holy month.
“There are no fans here and it is extremely hot. How can I stay without food for 16-17 hours in this heat? I already feel very weak. I don’t even have money to buy myself fruits to eat for sehri,” Arif says.
The eldest in his family, he had moved to Surat to work at a textile unit to support his mother and four young brothers.
Mohammad Anwar Khan (29), who had set out from Mumbai to reach his village in Sultanpur to celebrate Eid with his family, has now run out of money for one meal a day.
“I was observing Ramadan till now. I would get a banana or two and eat it in the morning. But I ran out of money yesterday. I had asked my sister to transfer some money. But first I need to look for someone with a bank account to get the money transferred,” Khan says.