Migrant exodus continues on Delhi lockdown day 1: ‘Don’t want to come back again’

Hundreds of migrants, some of whom could not get a bus or train on Monday, when a week-long lockdown came into effect in Delhi, gathered at Anand Vihar to try again on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, Pinki (26) and her husband left their home in Delhi’s Jhilmil Colony, filled with anxiety. The couple worked at a printing press near their home but were told by their employer that they won’t be paid during the lockdown and should consider leaving the city and returning when work resumes. With no savings, they borrowed money from their neighbours and left with their three children in search of a bus that could take them to Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh.

Standing with her children at Anand Vihar ISBT while her husband looked for a bus, Pinki said: “We are afraid we won’t get a bus today. My husband and I don’t have any savings left because our landlord forced us to pay the rent this month and our employers haven’t paid us anything in the last 20 days. How will we survive here if there’s a longer lockdown? The printing press produces school books and election posters but our employers didn’t pay us now because books aren’t being printed these days. Every time I see an election poster, I feel cheated. Nobody has helped us.”

“It’s been more than three hours now, I am tired but there are no buses. We can’t afford a private AC bus. Not that I want to stay in Sitapur because we won’t get a permanent job there. I wish schools reopen soon so I can print books again,” she said.

Hundreds of migrants, some of whom could not get a bus or train on Monday, when a week-long lockdown came into effect in Delhi, gathered at Anand Vihar to try again on Tuesday.

Geeta (38), a labourer, lost her job last week and was planning to go home with her son and her husband but the crowd “scared” her.

“We left our home after we watched the CM’s announcement on television. We get Rs 400 per day but our employers said the factory won’t open for at least a month. When we came here yesterday, I almost lost my son in the crowd. We missed our bus and got so scared that we went back home. Today, we are ready to leave but there are no buses. I packed parathas for the children. We will now work in Hamirpur, UP. I don’t want to come here again,” said Geeta.

The family shifted to Delhi last year but had to leave during the first lockdown. In December, they came back and got jobs, only to be met with another setback.

Though the terminal was lined with government buses, many seats were full because passengers booked tickets online. In private AC buses, passengers claimed conductors were charging as much as Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 for a seat.
Bhim Singh (50), who works at a cloth factory, said he and his wife were initially going to attend a friend’s wedding in Bihar’s Arrah, but have now decided not to return.

“The factory is shut, my children have already left and are staying with their grandparents. We will do farming. Last week, during the night curfew, I asked my neighbour to book my tickets. It’s scary here, people are pushing each other and nobody is wearing a mask. My children call me every hour. We just want to go back and stay in Bihar now,” he said.

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