2020 replay? Migrants fear they may run out of work and resources if lockdown extended
New Delhi, Apr 20: Geeta Kumari, a migrant daily wager from Nepal, fears that the six-day-long lockdown in Delhi might turn to be a repeat of last year and her family will run out of work and resources soon.
Waiting with her family at the Kaushambi Bus depot, ready to leave the city, Kumari says, ''We fear that it will be a repeat of last year. What if the lockdown is extended? What if they completely stop construction activities for a longer period? What will we eat then? Last time we waited for the situation to get better but ultimately had to go back home anyway.''
''I have seven members in my family, including a senior citizen. During the last lockdown, we went to Nepal after the situation became worse. We returned around four to five months ago. We work as a daily labourers and do not have work due to the ongoing situation. We have no work back in our native place so we will have to come back but not sure when as the lockdown could be extended,'' she told PTI.
Scenes similar to last year's migrant exodus could be seen replaying at interstate bus terminals with thousands of migrant workers gathering there to catch a bus home, hours after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a week-long lockdown and appealed to them with folded hands not to leave Delhi while sounding a word of assurance -- ''Main hoon na'' (I am here for you).
The chief minister appealed workers to not leave Delhi, saying the short period of lockdown would need not be extended. At present, there is no restriction on inter-state movement during the lockdown.
Chandan Siroj, a native of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, said that during the last lockdown, he travelled in a truck to reach his home. ''We were stuck for over one month here last year during the lockdown. The food was not an issue, but we were scared for our lives. We reached Jaunpur after travelling in a truck.
''We came back around two months ago. On Monday, we told our employer that we are leaving for Jaunpur and requested him for some money. He only gave Rs 500 each to us. Its not going to be the same this year, nobody will help,'' Siroj said who works, along with his four friends from Jaunpur, at a factory in north Delhi's Anand Parbat area. Dharamvir Singh, 24, a native of Akbarpur near Lucknow, was looking for a bus to his hometown. He, however, had different reasons to go home.
''I work as a carpenter in west Delhi's Subhash Nagar. I have to go to my hometown as my sister is getting married next week. Earlier, I was planning to go there this weekend, but after the lockdown was announced by the government, my family told me to come as soon as possible. I somehow reached Anand Vihar to board a bus till Lucknow,'' he said.
''I hope the situation does not deteriorate as I have to return for earning my livelihood. We will be again out of work and there will again be a crisis,'' he added.
At Kaushambi bus stand, several announcements were being made asking people to maintain social distancing, wear mask and regularly sanitise themselves. A bus conductor said they have instructions that there should not many passengers inside the bus and that they have to maintain social distancing.
Deepak Kumar, an e-rickshaw driver at Dilshad Garden, said he is not leaving for his hometown now but he is having trouble making ends meet as he is not getting many passengers.
''We are barely getting one or two passengers. It will become difficult to survive as my family's financial condition in not good. I am not going back home because I have to earn a livelihood and send money but what will I do if I don't get any passengers due to lockdown,'' he wondered.