New Delhi: Berjom Bamda Pahadiya, a 54-year-old migrant labourer from Jharkhand, arrived home from Delhi after seven months, much to the joy of his family members.
Pahadiya began his journey homewards on foot in August 2020 from Delhi with zero money in his pocket after he was looted by his contractor, denied his wages, and thrown out of the place he was staying at.
His arrival home this past March 13, after so many months of walking, has only refreshed the recent memory of the tragic saga of thousands of migrant labourers forced to walk home for months together from various cities due to the sudden national lockdown announced by the Narendra Modi government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
As per a report in the Telegraph, Pahadiya arrived home in Amarbitha village of the state’s Sahebganj district after trudging 1,200 km from Delhi. He told the newspaper that he left for Delhi in February 2020 on a train with ten others from his village after being offered “a good salary” by a middleman.
“I worked for 20-25 days before the lockdown but the middleman paid me nothing. He just arranged two meals a day and a place for me to stay. After the lockdown in March, he snatched all the money I had brought from home, about Rs 7,000, as well as my belongings and the Aadhar card,” the news report quoted him as saying.
Thereafter, Pahadiya remained a pavement dweller until August, when he thought of walking back home as he had no money to buy a train ticket. That he could speak only Santhali made his case worse.
He told the newspaper that he survived the entire route by begging and once remained without food for about a fortnight. He continued walking by the railway line.
This past March 11, a member of an NGO, Roti Bank, found him hungry at the Mucharaidih railway crossing in Mahuda, in Dhanbad district. On relating his saga, the NGO members not only decided to pool in money to buy a train or a bus ticket for him till Sahebganj, but also bought him new clothes, provided him food and found a room for him to rest.
“Some of our members uploaded his pictures on social media with an account of his ordeal. A contractor who was about to leave for Sahebganj contacted us and offered to take him to his village,” Suraj Kumar from the NGO told the Telegraph.
An NGO member accompanied Pahadiya in the contractor’s vehicle, which had left for Mahuda on March 12 night and reached his village on March 13 morning.
The newspaper said the Sahebganj deputy commissioner Ram Niwas Yadav had told its correspondent, “I shall send a probe team and, if possible, arrest the middlemen.” He promised to provide government assistance to the duped tribal labourers from the state and “strengthen the mechanism to ensure middlemen don’t lure villagers to big cities with false promises”.
As per news reports in early April, around 6.54 lakh migrant labourers of Jharkhand were stranded across the country and the state government had received more than 17,800 distress calls from such labourers with a week’s time.