Lucknow:Amitesh Kumar, a jobless migrant worker, waited for two days along with his wife and three children under a flyover near Mayur Vihar, hoping to get a bus to his hometown in Darbhanga, Bihar, but the police stopped them at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Sunday.
The 39-year-old worker, who said he had not been paid wages since March by the mobile manufacturing factory he worked for in Rohini, Delhi, started theover 1,000-km journey to his hometown on Saturday evening, walking with his wife Gayatri, daughters Kusum (6), Priyanka (3) and son Rohit (2).
Amiteshis among thousands of migrant factory workers, daily wagers, street vendors, all rendered jobless due to the coronavirus lockdown. They were heading towards their homes in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar but were stranded on the Delhi border after the police stopped them from going ahead.
On Monday, utter chaos broke out in most state and district borders in Uttar Pradesh as thousands of migrant labourers were stopped, and were left stranded in the heat without any proper arrangement for food, shelter or transportation.
Worry and despair writ large on their faces, many said there was no reason for them to stay back in the national capital.
"We have not eaten anything since the past two days and now we are being stopped from going home. Police are asking us to go back to our rooms while our landlords have kicked us out, demanding rent. I have no money for food, from where will I pay rent?" MurariPandey, who used to work as a tailor in Old Delhi told NewsClick. "Where shall I go now? We are famished. We will die hunger if we survive the pandemic," he burst into tears after being stopped at the border.
After the countryentered in fourth phase of lockdown on May 18, these jobless and penniless workers from different parts of country have been gathering at the Delhi-UP border on two-wheelers, bicycles and even on foot, hoping to reach their village home. But, they could not enter UP as all borders were sealed on Saturday night to curb unrestricted inflow of labourers amid rising fear of the spread of COVID-19.
Uttar Pradesh shares its borders with many states, including Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Migrants have been entering the state from all sides.
Meanwhile, there were reports that police also baton-charged the hapless migrants in several districts, such as Mathura, Jhansi and Ghaziabad when they tried to continue their journey on foot.
Kamlesh, a construction worker who specialises in making false ceilings, said he too tried to cross Delhi-UP border along with his family when the policemen stopped them and even beaten him up when he pleaded that he be allowed to go home.
"I lost my job as my factory has shut down. The only way we can survive is if the government allows us to go home, but we are stranded at the border. When we arrived at the border on Sunday afternoon on a trolley, the police forced us to de-board. Now, we have nowhere to go, as we have even left our rooms" Kamlesh, a native of Baharaich, told NewsClick.
Accompanied by his wife and two children, the youngest just six months old, a disheartened Kamlesh said: "I will never go backDelhiin search of job even if I have to beg at home. This is no life. Can you tell me, what am I supposed to do? Policemen do not allow us to go ahead and there are no buses or trains even if one is ready to buy a ticket."
When asked, a UP police officer deputed at the border told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity that they had received orders from top-level officers not to let anyone enter the state on foot andon bicycles. "Only those having valid train tickets will be allowed to enter the state", the officer added.
The migrants, many of them accompanied by women and children said they had nowhere to go. Also, they had been stopped from going ahead, but there was no proper arrangement for food, shelter or transportation at the border.
“We were made to sit at the border in an orderly manner and not allowed to enter Ghaziabad from where we were expecting to get on to some buses or trains to our hometown. We don't have money to book train tickets and those of us leftwith some money, do not have a smartphone to book the tickets. When we do not have jobs in Delhi what will do here? How long can we survive in the city without money?We want to die in our village, not at the border,” said Kaleem, a migrant from Ambedkar Nagar in UP, who worked as a fruit seller in Okhla Mandi.
Ravi, a social activist, who was distributing food packets to migrant workers at the border, told NewsClickover phone: "The situation is very grim, every migrant worker whether they are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Jharkhand, wants to go home. Though the police have stopped them at border, they have made no arrangement for food or shelter for them. Had NGOs and social activists not come with food, these poor migrants would have surely died due to hunger. Many of them said they had not eaten proper food since four-five days."
Accusing the government of running trains and buses only for publicity, some migrant workers said that only a few Shramik special trains were being run since May 1, for migrants. However, a large number of people have not been able to avail the facility due lack of money.
While some buses have also been arranged by the state government, yet migrants have been forced to trek hundreds of kilometres or travel in crowded trucks and other vehicles on long, perilous road journeys.
On Monday, thousands of migrant workers thronged Ramlila Ground near the Ghaziabad border for registering themselves for the three Shramik special trains, which will leave for different parts of UP today.