LUCKNOW: It was in mid-May that Satish Sahu, 37, had returned to his village Ahiruara in Bahraich district after changing various modes of conveyance - from walking on foot to taking the train to Lucknow and reaching his village by bus - from Mumbai. On Sunday, he was standing in a queue to get screened at Lucknow railway station to board Pushpak Express Special to go back to Mumbai.
“I have got a call from my management as the factory I was working in has opened now. They have called me back saying my job is intact,” said Sahu with a glint of hope in his eyes. On the fear of COVID-19 in Mumbai, Sahu says it is worth taking a risk instead of sitting at home losing the job. “Have to feed my family. I am leaving them (wife and a child) behind. Right now, only I am going to join duty,” he says.
Working in an automobile spare part production unit in Kalyan, Sahu used to work as a gas-cutter when his unit stopped operations during the lockdown. After waiting for a few days and exhausting all his savings, he decided to return home as it was not easy to survive with depleting savings.
On his return, he along with his wife and kid served a 14-day home quarantine period and got himself registered as skilled worker with the revenue department of UP government when his skill profile was being created.
Pushpak Express is ferrying migrants back to their places of work and who have similar stories to share with. They all are going back despite the palpable threat of deadly virus which has been playing havoc in Mumbai reflecting a trend of reversal of reverse migration. The quest for livelihood is paramount on the minds of those hundreds of migrants, private-sector workers and even self-employed people who are taking Pushpak Express back to Mumbai braving the looming threat of disease, what if, the memories of that arduous journey back home during lockdown just a few weeks ago is still fresh and alive in the minds.
Taufiq Raza of Sultanpur used to run a small food joint in Thane. “Now as the lockdown has been lifted, I am going back with my brother to open my food joint which I had to shut during restrictions,” he says.
Serving as the ‘lifeline’ between state capital Lucknow and country’s financial hub Mumbai, Pushpak which started running from June 1, carried over 1,100 passengers from Lucknow in the first three days.
The Pushpak Express Special ferried 437 passengers on the first day. There were around 420 passengers on board the second day. The scene is no different on other trains departing from Lucknow. As many as 620 passengers boarded the New Delhi-bound Gomti Express on June 1, 269 on June 2 and 300 on June 3.
Many of the migrants forgot the hardships of the journey while returning home as soon as they got the call from their employers. The majority of them are those who got profiled as per their skills but did not show interest in getting a job in UP. As per the official data, of 28,13,970 migrants mapped so far in the state, 22,56593 have shown the interest in staying back and working in the state, 556061 have not shown interest in taking up a job in UP.
Shivmangal Prajapati, Ankush Shakya, Gautam Yadav, and many of their ilk of Usrahar in Eatwah made up their mind to go back to Maruti manufacturing plant in Manesar by taking Gomti Express.
“They have called me back. They have promised that they will follow all the guidelines given by the government while running the plant. So I am going back,” said Ankush, a diploma holder in mechanical engineering from Government Polytechnic College, Lucknow.
However, Ankush claims that Maruti had been paying him salary for the last two months of lockdown while he was at home. Similarly, Shivmangal Prajapati was a supervisor in a company exporting garments in Delhi. He took the bus to Delhi with his factory mates Ramkumar, Ashish, and Lakhan Lal of Auriayya to join their jobs.