As he crosses the UP-Bihar border to reach the Gopalganj check post, Mohammed Zubair, astride a hand-driven tricycle for the physically challenged, is a picture of relief and exhaustion.
It has taken the 28-year-old almost two weeks to cover the distance from Ghazipur on the Delhi-UP border. Afflicted with polio as a child and also unable to use his left hand, he has used the right arm to cycle to Bihar, covering 50-60 km a day.
He says he will never return to Delhi where he had gone two months ago in search of a job. He found one — he was paid Rs 200 a day at the Ghazipur mandi where he would cut fish. But then the lockdown was announced.
Zubair says after the first lockdown extension, he realised he was running out of money. So, on April 23, he packed some beaten rice, gur, and namkeen and took out his tricycle to head home to Araria.
Exhausted, Zubair is now in the queue for registration of migrants and hopes to find a bus which can carry his tricycle on its roof.
The area near the check post is swarming with migrants from Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. It is the largest of the six inter-state border points, the entry gates for people from 25 of 38 districts of Bihar.
Most migrants are headed to Araria, Katihar, Supaul, Madhepura, Saharsa, Samastipur, Kishanganj, East Champaran, West Champaran. Some people say they have made the journey on foot, taking lift from trucks; others have come on motorcycles; and there are still others who have paid large sums for rides in cars.
Most people are daily wagers, some are tailors, vendors, masons.
There are 20 counters for district-wise registration of migrants — some counters are for two-three districts. Once the registration is done, 40 of a district/s on the same route are told to board a bus for quarantine centres in their districts.
Five ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwife) do thermal screening while two doctors look for Covid symptoms among the groups.
ANM Geeta Kumari says five of them work in eight-hour shifts. So do the eight policemen on duty. The registration process has been 24×7 since May 1.
Pratyaya Amrit, Principal Secretary, State Disaster Management Department, says: “We are registering and transporting migrants to 2,450 quarantine centres at block headquarters across the state. After thermal screening at borders, migrants also go through health checks at quarantine centres. This arrangement will continue till the migrants keep coming.”
At the border check post, a large canopy has been put up. Circles are made in every queue to maintain physical distancing. Everyone has the same question: How soon will we get a bus?
Some want to know why they need to spend 21 days in quarantine, especially when they have no Covid symptoms. Instead, most want the government to conduct the Covid test immediately and let them be with their families.
All have accounts of struggle, survival, and hope.
Batrot Khan (42), a tailor returning from Jaipur, says: “I started my journey on April 28, took lifts on trucks, and walked miles. I am desperate to return to my home at Narpatganj.” But unlike Zubair, he wants to return to his workplace “when it gets normal”.
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