Leaving a Life Behind

Leaving a Life Behind

Mohammed Moin had been in Delhi for a long time. He owned a tea stall and earned a monthly profit of about Rs 10000. Since the lockdown, which began on March 25, he hadn’t been able to set shop. Finally when he ran out of his savings, he and his wife left for their home in Bihar.

They left on a cycle cart with their entire lives bundled up in bags and packets.

“We couldn’t stay any longer. The landlord demanded rent and said if we can’t pay we have to vacate. We went to the police but nothing happened. So we left with bag and baggage. My business is finished,” Moin said.

He and his wife left on May 14 and reached Patna on May 21. They were headed to Samastipur which was at least another 80 kms.

“When we started from Delhi, we only had Rs 120. Now after a week we are left with Rs 20. We have been eating whatever we have got from people like you.” Moin had stopped to take rest near our Project Pathik van parked just outside Patna AIIMS hospital, in Phulwarisharif in the outskirts of the capital.

Under Project Pathik, which is in addition to the ongoing response, Oxfam India is providing cooked food, water, and dry ration and hygiene kits to the migrant workers returning home. “The numbers of those walking have reduced. Now more workers are coming on trucks, trailer trucks and buses. We wait here and check with them if they have food, water, etc. Depending on their requirement we distribute the kits,” said Neha Rani Verma, Oxfam India’s humanitarian officer.

Two packets each of cooked meal, dry ration and hygiene kits were given to Moin and his wife before they started the last leg of their journey. The dry ration and hygiene kits include chiwda, jaggery, sattu, biscuit, namkeen, soap, and gamcha (cloth). Oxfam India in Patna has distributed about 400 dry ration and 470 ready to eat meal since they began Project Pathik on May 15.

The Pathik vans and shelter (wherever possible) are on national highways. Moin met with Oxfam India team on NH 139. Like Moin, Rajesh Pandey too was a migrant worker returning home when he stopped briefly to speak to our NGO volunteers on NH 730 in Siddharth Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. He was coming from Bhiwani.

40-year old Rajesh, a migrant worker at a factory in Bhiwani in Haryana, waited out the lockdown  period for almost two months before he decided to leave for his home. “The factory closed down and the factory manager refused to pay us our wages. All of us in the factory lost our jobs. We spent all our savings and finally when we were left with nothing we requested the manager to give us some food, he refused. That is when I decided to leave.” He left Bhiwani on a cycle.

He covered the 1040 km route in four days via Delhi, Mathura, Etawah, Lucknow and Faizabad. He was now just 20 kms away from home at Dhanshankar village. His family is in the village. “I lost all communication with them. I know for a fact that they will be in difficulty as I am in. But now at least we will all be together.”

Before he left for his onward journey, our volunteers gave Rajesh a food and hygiene kit. The kit contained chiwda, sattu, salt, jaggery, a packet of Glucon-D, two bottles of water, betadine ointment and band-aid. In UP, 500 migrant workers — returning home passing through Siddharth Nagar — have received such kits under the Pathik Project.   

Both Moin and Rajesh, like millions of migrant workers return home, weary from the journey, will have to start their lives afresh but at that moment all they could think of was to get home safe and sound.

(with inputs from Neha Rani Verma (Bihar) & Binod Kumar Sinha (UP))

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