Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 23
“Our lives have no value” is the abiding message from migrants in a short documentary Congress leader Rahul Gandhi released on social media on Saturday to drive home the message of human tragedy staring lakhs of Indian workers, returning home in the Covid-19 lockdown, in the face.
The video captures heartbreaking images of men, women and children fatigued by hunger and scorching sun as they walk hundreds of kilometres in the urge to get home.
“The lockdown was announced without notice. First we thought it was for a day but then it kept on stretching. We couldn’t go out of the house nor did we have the money to feed ourselves. We paid Rs 2,500 rent a month in Ambala. There’s no dignity unless you pay rent. What could we have done?” said one of the members of a migrant family that had embarked on an arduous journey from Haryana’s Ambala to UP’s Jhansi.
“Please ferry us home. If you can do that for us we would be grateful,” says a woman of the family pointing to a child who had walked more than 100 km from Ambala to Delhi when Gandhi met them last week on Mathura road here.
Every member of the migrant household is heard saying they did not receive a rupee in their bank accounts despite promises of cash transfers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Reminiscing demonetisation, a woman migrant said, “He (the PM) takes impromptu decisions and does not think about how the poorest will cope. Our lives have no value. The rich are sitting comfortably in their homes.”
Gandhi, who arranged to send the family to Jhansi and provided for rations to help them start afresh back in UP, is heard saying at the end of the documentary, “Migrants are the bedrock of Indian economy. Each one of them deserves justice and Rs 7,500 should be put into their accounts urgently, now.”
The migrants in the video are heard alleging that people in Haryana beat them up to force them to stay inside homes every time they tried to get out for sustenance and hoped to find a way back home.
“The police were of course there but even people would beat us up the moment we got out of our houses. There was nothing we could do. With no knowledge of timelines of lockdowns, we had to take the harsh decision to walk home no matter how hard the journey. We told ourselves — let’s start and we will see what happens along the way,” a migrant says.
Many migrants walking back home have died on train tracks, some mowed down by heavy vehicles, some simply died of hunger as states where they worked dithered on arranging lockdown sustenance measures forcing poor labourers to return home.
Lakhs of migrants are currently undertaking reverse journeys from urban to rural areas as they fight the COVID lockdown consequences.
One of them in the video posted by Gandhi breaks down as he says, “If COVID won’t get us, hunger will.”
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