11 migrants reach Bihar from Gurgaon on cycle rickshaw

Coronavirus lockdown woes: Giving up hope of boarding Shramik train, 11 migrants reach Bihar from Gurgaon on cycle rickshaw

A man drinks water as he waits with other migrant workers and families for transportation going to the railway station to return by train to their hometowns. (Representative photo from AFP)

Giving up hope of boarding the Shramik Special train and struggling to make ends meet amid the lockdown, 11 rickshaw pullers here set on an eight-day long journey to Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district with their "costliest asset”-cycle rickshaw.

No work since the past two months, families waiting back home for money to be sent, landlords demanding rent, uncertainty about life returning to normalcy, and an endless wait to go back to their village, added to the woes of 48-year-old Bharat Kumar.

Kumar had registered for the Shramik Special train.

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Everyday, he hoped his phone will ring and he will be asked to come to the station. But, only his landlord’s call came everyday asking when he would pay the due rent.

Dejected with the wait, Kumar decided to go to the Gurgaon Railway Station where he was refused an entry. He however, found more people who were there to enquire about the status of their tickets.

Eleven of them got together, and set on the 1,090 kilometre long journey on cycle rickshaws, which took them eight days.

"How long would I have waited? It had already been two months. The situation was getting out of hands. I would have been thrown out if I had not vacated the rented room. And there was no clarity on when will things get back to normal. I decided to go anyway,” Bharat told PTI over phone.

"I have no clue about how will I earn here (Bihar), but at least I am with my family with no threat of being thrown out. I feel weak after the long journey. I would find out in a few days on what work I can do in my home state to survive,” he added.

Choking back tears, 40-year-old Jhokhu said, “At first we thought that we all could go together. We thought one person can sit and other can ride so both persons can get a break during the journey.

“But we could not have left our rickshaws back in Gurgaon. It is the costliest asset we have. We do not know when will we go back so we thought of packing all our belongings on the rickshaw and go back,” he said.

Dayanath, 36, feels that though the journey was immensely difficult, he made a wise decision.

"It took us eight days to reach and it was an immensely difficult journey. Even now we have not got any update on the train ticket. If I would not have started from there, I would still be there. How long could I have eaten in different community kitchens waiting for someone to help? I know for sure that no help was coming my way so I had to find my own way,” he said.

Raju, whose five kids heaved a sigh of relief when he reached home, says he does not own the rickshaw which he pulled in Gurgaon.

"I do not have my own rickshaw. It was on rent. I used to give a share of my earnings to the ‘malik’ (owner). He does not even know that I have brought the rickshaw here. I am sure he would have been angry had I told him in advance. I could have travelled on my other fellows’ rickshaws, but we all had belongings to carry,” he said.

"I told my family that I was starting from Gurgaon on the rickshaw and they were scared. They could not reach out to me over the phone as its battery died. So they were scared that something happened to me midway,” he added.

According to the Haryana Chief Minister's Office (CMO), so far over 2.90 lakh migrants have been sent home from the state.

The country has been under lockdown since March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus. The curbs have now been extended till May 31.

The nationwide lockdown has thrown the economic activities out of gear, rendered many homeless and penniless and began an exodus of migrants to their home states.

While trains and buses are being arranged for the migrants to reach their native places, lakhs of them continue to wait for the call to avail these transport facilities.

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