Migrants Wait in Filth & Chaos After Registering to Go Home
“This hall is stinking, can you get it cleaned?”, a migrant worker staying in a hall in UP’s Ghaziabad district asks
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Producer: Hera Khan
Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
“This place is stinking, can you get this cleaned somehow?”, a migrant worker asked as he pointed towards the facility where the administration of Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district had asked him to stay.
The Quint went to the two Ramlila Maidans in the district on 18 May, one next to Ghanta Ghar and the another in Kavi Nagar, to see first hand how migrants were registering to go home. A day earlier, on 17 May, the UP government had begun to stop migrants on the border after several incidents of migrant workers dying made news. The most recent being from UP’s Auriya where at least 24 migrant workers, who were trying to return home, died in an accident. They were now to be provided special trains to go home.
What we found on the ground was confusion and helplessness while migrant workers stood in crowded lines with little information. Leftover food, banana peels, packets of food, plastic, clothes, and cow-dung were spread across the Ramlila Maidan as well as the adjacent hall where migrant workers, who were left behind, were asked to stay.
‘Registered Twice, Still Not on Train’
Retiring for the day we found 32-year-old Sunil Kumar sitting with all his belongings. He worked as an accountant in Okhla area of Delhi and said he had registered for the second time to get on a train. Showing The Quint both his registration slips he said, “I registered on 15 May and got onto a bus, but could not get onto the train as there was no space. Then I was asked to come here again on 18 May, but despite getting my registration this time I could not even get onto the bus.”
He shows The Quint the two copies of his registration.
He has to go Bhramapur village in Bihar’s Chhapra district and is ready to spend the night on the field where there is dirt every few inches. When asked why he would not stay in the hall where everyone else was asked to, he said, he can not stay there as there are too many people. “We have to adjust, so we are outside,” he says.
As you enter the hall, there is dirt everywhere. People inside say they have no choice but to stay here. “We are going to sleep here, we have no choice. Go inside and see how it is so much more smelly and dirty,” this migrant worker says.
Inside the hall, a few steps up, there are red carpets which have food everywhere. A young boy is sleeping peacefully next to a pile of garbage unaffected by the pile rising in size and the smell becoming more and more intolerable.
‘Made to Get off The Bus Thrice’
Speaking to a group of migrant workers who were standing in line after completing their registration, they told us how they’ve waited for about ten hours in line without being told if they will ever get onto a bus. Some, like Riazuddin, a migrant worker who wants to return to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, says he was made to get off the buses several times. Upon seeing this reporter talk to people, he started talking loudly and said, “These people have made me get on and off the bus three times. The whole day we have been standing in the sun, tell me, will a person not fall ill because of this?”
Close by Shamsher, who is from Ayodhya, gesticulates and says, “They told us to get on and then said that only 40 people will be allowed to go. The police is pushing us out of the buses and not letting us get onto them.”
Speaking about the mismanagement and chaos, Arun*, who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “I was supposed to be on a train at 12:00 noon. It is 4:00 pm now, I obviously missed it. Why are they only bringing two or three buses at one point, why can they not bring more buses so all of us can get on? Similarly, why are we not getting more trains?”
‘No Buses to Badaun, Bareily or Hathras’
Lots of women complained to The Quint that they were not getting registered as there were no buses to where they live. “If you can not make arrangements for us to return home, then let us go. You are not even letting us go. We have no choice but to stay here. I have kids to take care of. What am I supposed to do?,” she asks.
They complained that when they go the authorities they ask them to go away.
Wanting to go home to Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh, a woman said, “We stood for hours in the line. This is where there are supposed to help us get trains to Uttar Pradesh right? So why is Hathras excluded. At the same time they are not letting us go outside and find a way for ourselves. There are at least forty people here who need to go to Hathras. It would fit an entire bus. Help us go home.”
The exercise to send migrant workers home continues almost two months after the lockdown was announced. While the desperation and helplessness of the workers to return home is worrisome, the lack of clarity in procedures and hygienic facilities provided to them is a bigger matter of concern.
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