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Migrant crisis: ‘Not sure if we’ll reach home or die on way’

While Shramik trains have been running from Jalandhar and Amritsar districts for over a week, migrants from all eight districts of Doaba and Majha regions were found walking and cycling to their homes in UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand in large groups.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | Updated: May 13, 2020 12:16:01 pm
Coronavirus cases, Indian lockdown, Punjab migrant workers, Punjab migrant workers cases, Punjab news, coronavirus news, covid 19 tracker, covid 19 india tracker, indian express news A group of migrants cycling back home. (Express photo by Anju Agnihotri Chaba)

“We have been feeding ourselves using money sent from home. At the railway station, police cane us…some even demanded money…to let us board the train even though our registration was complete 12 days ago. With no way out, we decided to go home on a bicycle. Not sure if we will reach home or die along the way.”

As Brij Kishore (21) expresses his fear and helplessness at Punjab’s Phagwara, he had already travelled 150 km, with nearly 1,500 km yet to cover to reach his home in Bathani Tola village of Bihar’s Bhojpur district.

Read| Migrants’ vulnerability is newly visible, but not new

Kishore, who worked at a thread mill in Amritsar district and was part of a group of over 29 migrants on cycles, said, “My father borrowed and sent Rs 1,000. I used Rs 800 to buy a second-hand bicycle. I have been riding for the past three days and it will take 12 more days to reach my village. Our feet are badly swollen…”

Santosh Kumar arrived in Phagwara from Hoshiarpur’s Tanda town in a group of 100 migrants on bicycles on their way to Bihar.

“No trains are being run from our district. We are not even aware whether they would run… We walk 10 km daily to the DC office to enquire about the train, and the police send us back to our rooms without any clarification. Now we are going home on cycles,” said Santosh, who left Hoshiarpur’s Tanda town on Tuesday morning.

Read| Ensure migrant workers don’t walk home, counsel them: Centre to states

While Shramik trains have been running from Jalandhar and Amritsar districts for over a week, migrants from all eight districts of Doaba and Majha regions were found walking and cycling to their homes in UP, Bihar, and Jharkhand in large groups.

The entire stretch from Kartarpur in Jalandhar to Phagwara was full of such migrants on Tuesday.

“Whatever we had with us here is finished… Our families back home had been supporting us by sending money. So is it not better to go back rather than asking them to send money,” said Vikas, another migrant who left Beas in Amritsar for his home.

Ram Nivasan from Bihar’s Saharsa district said, “When no one is telling us anything with clarity, how long can we wait here in uncertainty? …no one was helping us, so we started our long journey to home.”

“Police caned me when I went to the railway station to enquire about the train from Hoshiarpur. After such treatment, I decided to start on my own,” said Bholu Ram, who came to Punjab to work as a construction labourer.

Read|Exodus on foot continues, Maharashtra to pay train fare of migrant workers

The allegation of money being demanded to let migrants board the trains was brought up by another worker from Amritsar. “We went to the railway station after getting a message and there they are demanding Rs 500 to Rs 700 to board the train. We don’t have even a single penny…” said Amrish Sahu, who reached Phagwara, cycling to Bihar from Amritsar.

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