'Shoot us if infected with coronavirus but let us go'

'Shoot us if infected with coronavirus but let us go' begs Uttar Pradesh migrant worker

"UP border pe goli maar do saheb agar corona hua hai humko...lekin ghar pahucha do. Yahan bhookh se nahi marna (Sir, shoot us if we are infected with coronavirus at Uttar Pradesh border but send us home. We don't want to die here of hunger," said 24-year-old Ajay Kumar Vishwakarma, requesting to tell senior officials to let him go back to Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, his home.

Ajay along with 150 migrant workers had embarked on a 1500-km journey on their motorcycles from Ahmedabad to Ayodhya on April 27. Little did they know that their journey will not just abruptly end, they would also be left in the lurch. As soon as the group reached the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh (MP) border on Tuesday evening, their bikes were impounded by MP police and they had to return to Ahmedabad hitchhiking and walking for hours from Tuesday late in the night to Wednesday evening without food and water.  

 

"Papa ne gehun bech ke paise bheje the uska petrol bharwaya motorcycle mein aur nikal gaye hum log (My father had sent me money by selling wheat from which I bought petrol and set off for home on motorcycles)," Ajay told DH over the phone from an unknown place near Godhra in central Gujarat that is nearly 100 km from Ahmedabad on Wednesday morning.

He said that all his co-travellers are carpenters and work as casual workers in Ahmedabad for the past six to seven years. They all planned their journey on two-wheelers, many of them riding with their wives and children. They loaded their essentials on motorcycles and set off on the long journey to Ayodhya on April 27 early morning.

Sharing high ordeal, Ajay further said, "We all belong to nearby villages in Ayodhya and hence know each other well. This was the reason we planned the trip on our bikes since there is no other way to travel. We reached MP-Gujarat border after many difficulties. We had to abandon a bike my brother Digvijay was riding since the mechanic was charging Rs 5000 to repair it and we didn’t have any money. My brother and the pillion rider then adjusted on other bikes, riding triples.

Another worker Jitendra Vishwakarma said that after reaching the border, Jhabua police (MP), stopped them. "The policemen told us that if Yogiji (UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath) would pass an order only then we would be allowed to travel any further. The police impounded our motorcycles and forced us to sit inside a bus belonging to the Gujarat government after hours of wait. This bus dropped us somewhere in Godhra on Tuesday night and left. We started walking on the road without food and water." He said that there were 80 to 90 motorcycles that were seized.

Jhabua Superintendent of Police Vineet Jain confirmed their narrative to DH and said, "Every day, we stop about 300 to 400 persons trying to enter MP from Gujarat illegally. They are mostly from Surat and Ahmedabad. We can't allow them since traveling without the government’s permission is prohibited." He said the bikes were seized "so that they don't try to enter the state again.”

The group after being dropped somewhere in Godhra started walking back to Ahmedabad without food and water. After hours of walking in the scorching sun, they said that at one place local police gave them "khichdi" and water and then dropped them at Kathwada, in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. From here, they again walked for nearly 30 kms to reach their rented accommodation in Chandlodiya and other localities.

The lockdown is taking a toll on migrant workers in the state who desperately want to go back home. In Surat, three violent protests have already been reported in which hundreds of workers have been booked to rioting and arson.