“We won’t go back. We will have to walk a long distance if we return. so, we would rather go forward,” said Rajesh Paswan, one of the many migrant labourers walking back from Karnataka.
For 48 hours, the Karnataka government had suspended the train services for migrant workers who wanted to return home. By the time the government reversed its decision thousands of migrant workers were already walking home.
Despite the government re-starting trains, many fear they won't get a seat on a train even if they wait. "We tried (registering online) for ten days, nothing happened. The owner will soon want rent. So, we are walking," said Bhuvan from Bihar.
Some have no money to buy a train ticket, which costs anything between Rs 800 to 1,100. "We want to go home. We sat idle for one and a half months. We have no money to pay rent and no work. What can we do, just sitting?" asked Numan, from Uttar Pradesh.
"What do I do? I don't have even 5 rupees in my pocket. The landlord attacked me and threw me out. So I'm walking home. I have not eaten since morning. I ran out of food and money two weeks ago," said Adarsh Rav from Uttar Pradesh.
With no money, no food and no work, many have survived the long walk because of some good samaritans. "As we walked, a man asked where we are going. We said we're going to UP. He asked how we'll eat. When we said we don't know, he gave us Rs 1,000. He said even his company is closed, but we must take his money and have food," said Brijesh, a resident of Bihar.
But at the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border, police had clear instructions not to allow anyone through. Some sneaked past checkpoints but many were sent back by the police.
Those turned back want the govt to provide food and shelter. "My landlord is not allowing me to return or even enter the room. If the government gives us food and water, we can walk back. Either give us a place to live, or let us walk,” said Kamlesh Kumar from Uttar Pradesh. Those still on the road say they will get home, somehow. “We will walk. If we have the courage, we can reach anywhere,” said Rajesh Paswan.