With practice question papers of Economics, a pair of jeans, a dozen rotis, and a water bottle, Yogendra Tyagi began walking on Saturday morning from Dehradun to his home in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district, nearly 250 km away.
The 19-year-old is a second-year BA student in a Moradabad college who has been doubling up as a worker in a textile factory in Dehradun for the past two months to pay the bills.
“My exams have been postponed and factory has closed due to the lockdown. Earnings have stopped too, and hence it is better to go home,” he says.
Yogendra earns around Rs 10,000 per month, most which goes towards supporting his three yonger siblings, who, too, are studying in Moradabad.
After hearing rumours from fellow labourers that the lockdown may be extended, he decided to make the journey home-like hundreds of other migrants labourers in the state. Walking with him is his colleague, Rajat, 20, also a BA second-year student.
Both packed a few rotis and started making their way towards Haridwar. “Some policemen told me that I may get some transportation at the UP border. That is after Haridwar, which is some 80 km from here. If we don’t get any transport from there, we will continue to walk,” says Yogendra, while trying to wave down every truck and jeep on the highway to get a lift.
“It will take at least three days to reach home. Our rotis will not be enough. We will need help,” adds Rajat, adding that he and Yogendra were surviving on one meal a day.
After walking for around 25 km, both take a brief pause at a railway overbridge on the Haridwar bypass highway. The bypass is the pipeline for the mass exodus of migrants from Uttarakhand. On Sunday, in the space of an hour, at least 200 migrants make their way through the overbridge towards different districts in Uttar Pradesh.
Among them is a large group of 54 people walking towards Lakhimpur district, around 450-km from Dehradun. “Construction work has stopped as raw material is not reaching the sites. People are saying that the lockdown may continue for another three months. My parents allowed me to walk such a long distance because I am safe in group of more than 50 others,” says Sanjay Nishad (32), who walked with a bag and a packet of sabji-roti in hand. He said some policemen gave him the food, but that it would suffice for only a single meal. “I will at least get food at home where my father does farming,” he adds.
Rakesh Gupta, another labourer from the group, says he contacted a government helpline number displayed on a hoarding. “I sought help for food and conveyance. But the person on the other side told me stay inside home and not move around,” he says.
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