Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Saturday shared a video of his recent interaction with migrant workers in Delhi’s Sukhdev Vihar. The group – of about 20 persons – was walking hundreds of kilometres from their work-site in Haryana to their village near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. “A conversation with India’s unsung heroes, our migrant brothers and sisters who have suffered tremendous hardship, violence and injustice in these past weeks,” Gandhi tweeted.
In the video, Gandhi says, “Coronavirus has brought pain to a large number of people, but it has seriously affected our migrant brothers and sisters. They walked thousands of kilometres and without food. They were stopped, threatened, but they kept walking towards their home. I will show you what they are thinking, what they expect and how scared they are.”
Mahesh Kumar, a migrant worker from Jhansi told Gandhi, “We have already walked about 150 km. We are bound to walk.” Another migrant, a woman, said, “Rich people are not in trouble, the ones who are facing the real problem are us, the poor. We and even our children are hungry for the last three days.”
When Rahul asked them how they got to know about the lockdown, they said, “We got the news suddenly. On March 21, we heard there is a curfew on March 22. But then suddenly this lockdown came into force. The government should have given us at least four-days time. After waiting for two months, we decided to walk because now we have nothing at all here and the lockdown was getting extended. We didn’t know what would happen after the third phase. Our rent was Rs 2500 per month. We don’t have a single penny, we are just walking. If someone gave something on the way, we ate. We just want to save our lives.”
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Another labourer told Rahul that the coronavirus disease is not giving them pain, but hunger is. “We just want the government to take us home and give us some work.”
At the end of the interaction, upon their request, Gandhi makes arrangements for the group of migrants to return to their village in Jhansi, in cars and a mini-bus.
On May 17, the Congress had alleged that police tried to detain migrant workers who interacted with Gandhi at Mathura Road on Saturday — a charge denied by the Delhi Police. “Rahul Gandhi met some labourers, spoke to them, and left. Local police were present and there were some Congress workers too, who wanted to take the workers with them in a car. We told them that everyone can’t be put in one car and that they have to follow social distancing norms. They got more cars and the labourers left in those cars,” DCP (Southeast) RP Meena had said.
The Congress party had said Rahul met with a group of people for around an hour at Mathura Road. “He had an impromptu hour-long meeting with a group of 20 migrants, including women and children, walking from their work site near Ambala to their village near Jhansi — a distance of over 700 kilometres… While adhering strictly to the law, at the request of Mr Gandhi, volunteers from the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee stepped up to help the group get back to their village,” the Congress leader’s office had said.
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