On Monday around 7 am, Rajesh Sahani last met his elder brother, Raju, before leaving for work at power plant in Gujarat’s Ankleshwar city. Raju was supposed to go in the next shift.
Later in the day, Rajesh got a call from Raju’s wife, Indravati, who lives in Bahuas village in Kushinagar district, who said her husband wasn’t answering her calls. When Rajesh tried calling his brother, a police officer answered and said Raju was dead.
The body of 40-year-old Raju Sahani was found around 6.30 pm by a passerby on National Highway 8. He had cycled nearly 55 km from their quarters at the site of the power plant in Ankleshwar.
Near him was his bicycle, a rucksack with clothes, a blanket, his Aadhaar card, a water bottle and Rs 2,000. He was on his way to his home — Bahuas village in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district.
Doctors at the Karjan General Hospital confirmed that Rju died of exhaustion. “…as per preliminary reports of autopsy, he died due to exhaustion. He did not have any other co-morbid conditions and was healthy. He also did not have any symptoms of COVID-19…,” Anil Chaudhary, superintendent of the hospital, said.
“Exhaustion did not kill him, his helplessness to meet his family in such times of crisis did. We could not even see him one last time,” an inconsolable Indravati told The Indian Express over phone.
There are 26 migrants from Bahuas village working in Ankleshwar, and only he decided to leave. His family says they were completely unaware that he had planned to cycle back home — a distance of around 1,600 km.
“He never shared any plans about cycling back home. We decided to stay back as work resumed and we were promised wages too. I do not know why he left without informing anyone,” Rajesh said.
Raju came to Gujarat in January this year and his younger brother joined him in February. “Two years ago, we were in Gandhidham for work. After the contract ended, we returned to our village. We do not own any land and our father is a rickshaw puller. Back home we would work as farm labourers and at times on construction sites, but the pay was bare minimum,” Rajesh said.