NEW DELHI: A WhatsApp notification announcing the re-opening of a factory in Ghaziabad last night had brightened Rupesh Kumar and his friends, who set out on foot to stake claims on the employment 50 km away.
But after walking 5 km, their new-found hope was dashed as the police turned them away. The group of migrant labourers cursing their fate as well as Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on the way back to their jhuggi cluster in Uttar Pradesh's Gautam Buddh Nagar.
A rice mill stands shut in the Bisrakh village, while the migrant labourers scan their mobile phones, sitting under the tin shades in the backyard which make up for their accommodations. "The mill owner shut down the rice mill on the day of the announcement of the lockdown by PM Modi. The contractor who had brought us here also disappeared. While we were given accommodation near the mill in the jhuggis, all are surviving on meagre cash support given by the mill owner once in 15 days," said 35-year-old Rupesh Kumar, who hails from Bihar's Samastipur district.
He adds that his vote in this year’s Bihar Assembly elections will not be for the incumbent chief minister unlike previous occasions, arguing that Kumar in past 15 years didn’t create employment opportunities. "Schools there are busy serving khichdi instead of providing education; no new industries came up so we had to come to other states," rued Kumar.
16-year-old Sachin curses his fate, as he had come from Bihar for treatment of his ear ailment only to be stranded for over 50 days with his relatives. "I keep checking the Aarogya Setu App. I also try the helpline number of the Bihar government; the line is always busy. I just want a way back to my village," said Sachin, a student of class XII. The migrant labourers claimed that they’re given Rs 200-500 once in 15 days along with 2 kg of grains. "We thought that we could earn some money at the factory to buy means to go back to Bihar," said 37-year-old Shrawan.
40-year-old Dharmendra along with over a dozen migrant labourers stays at the basement of an under construction building in Greater Noida. He said a good number of his friends have gone back to Bihar in the first few days of the lockdown by paying truck drivers.
"Some of us had received credits of Rs 1,000 each from the Bihar government, but that was all spent within a few days. Now, we just hope for the trains to Bihar to start operations we will head homes," Dharmendra, from Lakkhisarai in Bihar said.