New Delhi: A group of about 40 migrant workers in Delhi are planning to leave for their homes in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur, more than 700 km away.
“All work has stopped for three weeks. What will we do here? What will we eat. So we want to go back,” said one of the workers, Devatram Raut.
While some state governments like Uttar Pradesh have arranged buses to bring back their workers from other states, Rajasthan is yet to announce any such move.
“We were hoping that since other states have announced buses, Rajasthan will also do the same. But that has not happened. So, we don’t have any option but to start walking back. We can’t stay here,” Raut told The Wire.
The group of workers is right now staying at the three-room house of one of their contractors in Delhi’s Rohini. Most of them worked as food vendors and cooks in central Delhi and old Delhi, earning daily wages between Rs 300 and Rs 400.
“We don’t have any money left. The contractor is feeding us right now. But how long can he do that?” said one of the workers.
The contractor has said that he too wants to go back to Dungarpur. “The situation is terrible. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am running out of money and may not be able to feed them much longer. So all us need to go back to Dungarpur,” said the contractor, Bhanji Meena.
The Delhi government has set up community kitchens to feed stranded migrant workers and the poor in Delhi and encouraged migrant workers to continue living in the city.
But the workers are sceptical of the state’s capacity to feed each and every one of them for the duration of the lockdown. “They are also doing that. But how do we go to these kitchens when there is no transport? And for how long will they continue doing so?” asked Meena.
Raut said that in a situation when there is no income and he has to rely on assistance for survival, he would rather rely on his community’s assistance than the state’s. “I have much more faith in my village and my community than I have in the government. The government does not care for the poor. It can easily leave us to die. I don’t want to take that chance. I want to go back home. Be with my family. Be with my community,” he said.
Lakhs of migrant workers are walking to go back to their homes from urban India to rural India. Some state governments have now started arranging buses to take them to their homes. But several, like Rajasthan, are yet to announce any such measures.
These migrants run the risk of carrying the disease to their villages and also of falling sick on the way. They are also increasingly running the risk of going hungry.
So far, the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has not announced any measures to deal with the situation. It has ‘advised’ states to take care of the problem.