Sujit Kumar, 25, is on his way back home, to Bighapur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao. After the Delhi government starting April 17, migrant workers like Sujit are worried that this is just the beginning of yet another extended lockdown.
The government’s restrictions include the closing down of gyms, malls and dine-in restaurants, and yet again, it’s the migrant workers who are hit the hardest.
“I am afraid about how we will manage if there is a lockdown again,” said Sujit, who works as a bus driver in Delhi. “It’s not like we have a house of our own. I literally live on a bus.”
Sujit’s memories of the lockdown last March are vivid. His monthly earnings slipped from Rs 16,000 to Rs 10,000, and his finances have never recovered. “It’s a struggle to save Rs 5,000 every month,” he said. “At least 20 people from my village who were employed in Mumbai also went back home a few days ago.”
Sujit is not alone. Arif Ali, 19, told Newslaundry that he came to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad just a few months ago in search of work as a plumber. But on April 16, he too was trying to find a bus that would take him home.
“Earlier, I was able to make Rs 700 a day. Now, that has come down to Rs 400,” he said.
At Anand Vihar ISBT, shopkeepers said they have seen unusually large crowds for the last two days. Some auto drivers said the panic among migrant workers is palpable.
“When employers themselves stop paying due to shortage of work, how are pardesis [outsiders] supposed to manage here?” said Rafiq Ahmed, an auto driver.
Similar scenes were witnessed outside the New Delhi railway station, where Newslaundry met migrant workers heading home to Jharkhand. Ranjit Prasad, 33, said he used to work as a cook at a restaurant in Delhi. Now, he’s been told that he won’t receive his next paycheck.
“I had to spend Rs 2,000 from my own pocket for a ticket to Koderma in Jharkhand,” he said. “My employer told us to leave immediately.” The closure of malls and restaurants doesn’t leave him with many options, he pointed out. “I will have to figure out farming now,” he said, his voice filled with anger. “What else can I do now?”