COVID-19, Hunger & Long Way From Home: On the Road with Labourers

Coronavirus, Hunger and No Jobs: Millions of Indian migrant labourers are walking back home.

Published28 Mar 2020, 01:50 AM IST
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2 min read

After the 21 days' lockdown was imposed, lakhs of migrant Indian labourers have lost their jobs. With no earnings and nothing to eat, they have been forced to return home, which in most cases is hundreds of kilometres away from Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

The lockdown also means no public transport is available -- no buses, no trains. So they are left with no other option but to walk.

This is India's long march back home.

Migrant Labourers walking back home on the Noida Expressway.
Migrant Labourers walking back home on the Noida Expressway.
(Photo: The Quint)
“We will walk almost 800 km. If we get a vehicle, we’ll hitch a ride. Else we’ll walk all the way to Azamgarh. We were waiting all this while in Noida. But things are so expensive. There was not enough to eat. So we are headed home.”
Manoj, MIgrant Labourer from Azamgarh

We met Satyavan and Usha on the Noida Expressway. Their four arms carrying both their children, aged 3 and 1 and a green bag. They are headed for Badaun in Uttar Pradesh. A distance of almost 175 km form Noida. Most likely they will have to walk all the way to their home.

Satyavan & Usha will walk almost 175km to Badaun.
Satyavan & Usha will walk almost 175km to Badaun.
(Photo: The Quint)

On the third day of the all-India lockdown, there were still thousands of people walking on the highways of India. And we have few suggestions on how perhaps the government and administration could have reduced their hardships.

- By arranging public buses or trains for the elderly, women and children.

- By ensuring police are present at the bus stands and railway stations to ensure the buses are not crowded and there's enough space between passengers.

- By dissemination of information to assure people that there would be job security, enough to eat and that the Govt will take care of them.

- By having enough personnel deployed on the highways to provide food, water and shelter to those who are walking.

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