It documents death, hunger, and great suffering. Everywhere, the world around us is struggling to contain the Corona crisis.
India is doing so too. However, no where in the world will you read headlines and stories of extremely poor people walking hundreds and thousands of kilometers in temperatures that hover above 40 degree celcius, with children and women in tow.
Giving up on the way. Dying on roadsides. Far away from family. Faminished. Tired. Dehydrated.
Pregnant women delivering on the road. And then, just after an hour of childbirth, walking again. The long trudge home.
Why is this happening? It is happening because the Indian government imposed a complete lockdown but either failed to forsee how it would affect the migrant community, the poor, the daily wage earners or did not care enough to plan and account for these people. This is true of both – the various state governments as well as the central government.
Why are they walking home? Because the Indian governent closed down the borders, there was no state or private transport, and when transport was provided after so many deaths and hue and cry, the poor people were asked to pay a fare – a fare they couldn’t afford because they had run of out their meagre savings.
But most importantly, why are these men, women and children walking or cycling for these hundreds of kilometers? Because the urge to go home is a basic, intrinsic need – imagine yourself without money to pay rent, to buy food, stuck in a city which no longer provides you with a livelihood and disease and death lurk around you. If you have to die, you might as well die at home, where you are surrounded by your family, where you have a roof over your head.
And so these poor people walked. Cycled. Hitched rides on truck, herded together like animals.
These arduous journeys and experiences were documented by journalists.
The journalists covered these stories at great risk to their own health. In doing so, they have held up a mirror to our society – how deeply unequal and divided it is, how the government has failed the very people it needs to protect and help at a time like this.
This will be an ongoing blog – I will keep adding the links to this blog as more newsreports are filed. I want to compile a document with as many links of the newsreports as I can. This is important for me. It is important because as is the way of the world, all this will soon be forgotten.
The people who have made these journeys are poor. But their lives matter. If I had lost a family member to a journey like this, would I want it to be forgotten?
This is not a political statement. Human suffering is beyond our political loyalities or biases. And in a democracy, if we do not hold up the mirror to our government, who will?
1) A man cycling from Gujarat to UP dies enroute – he wanted to cover the 1,600 km over his bicycle
“Exhaustion did not kill him, his helplessness to meet his family in such times of crisis did. We could not even see him one last time,” an inconsolable Indravati told The Indian Express over phone.Indravati, his wife.
2) A 12-year-old child migrant worker dies just 11 km away from home, after she has walked 100km
Realising that the extensions of the lockdown meant no job, more days without food, she and a group of 12 other migrant workers decided to return home on foot, to the Indian state of Chattisgarh from Telangana where they worked. For Madkam, the 100km journey ended in death due to electrolyte imbalance and exhaustion, barely 11 km from home.
3) A migrant couple tries to cycle home, gets run over by a car, two children survive
They had no food or money, and had to find a way to feed their children. They thought they could resume farming in their village, or at least give their land on loan,” Mohan Sahu, Krishna Sahu’s neighbour, told NDTV, explaining why he had set out on such a perilous journey.Mohan Sahu, neighbour
4) Migrants, exhausted and tired, walking in the heat to their homes, sleep on railway tracks, are crushed by a goods train
5) Last leg of walking home, migrant’s body gives up, and he dies
“He did not have any serious health condition. We were all tired because of walking hundreds of kilometers. He died in front of us. We just want to go home. How many days do we stay like this? Please arrange a vehicle for us,” a visibly worried Ayub said.Ayub
6) 42 migrants have lost life to accidents while trying to reach their home states
“These numbers should be treated as the minimum numbers since we did not get replies from several states and believe some single-fatality crashes may not have been written about,” Save Life Foundation CEO Piyush Tewari.Piyush Tewari, Save Life Foundation CEO
8) Long road home, migrant dies enroute
“Ranveer was accompanied by two others from Delhi and was walking towards his village in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. On reaching Agra on Saturday morning, he complained of chest pain. So all three stopped on the outskirts of Agra but Ranveer collapsed,” the senior police officer said.Senior police officer
9) Lucknow woman trudges 900 km to save daughter from Covid–19
“My daughter has not eaten since last night. I am worried about her. If we don’t get any vehicle we will continue our journey on foot,” she said, signalling towards a group of eight people (her relatives), who travelled with her to reach the safety of their home.Rukhsana Bano
10) Hyderabad: Man lugs pregnant wife, kid 800km home on cart
“We had no money to even get on a truck. So, I decided to make a cart…’
11) ‘Will live on salt’ — UP, Bihar migrants refuse to return to cities, say were disowned by them
“There were 50 of us but at many places the police stopped and beat us up. Finally, eight of us managed to escape through the farms,” he said.Yadav
12) Six migrant workers mowed down by UP transport bus while walking towards Muzaffarnagar
“We were told by local residents that these people were migrants who were walking. Six people were declared brought dead after being rushed to the hospital. The accused driver, Rajveer, was drinking and driving and has been arrested for death due to negligence,” said Anil Kaparvan, SHO of Kotwali police station in Muzaffarnagar.Anil Kaparvan, SHO of Kotwali police station in Muzaffarnagar.
13) Video of an exhausted child asleep on suitcase leaves netizens heartbroken
14) Seven migrant workers walk 1,800 km from Mumbai to reach home in Chaibasa
“We worked at a construction site in Navi Mumbai where work came to a standstill after the announcement of the lockdown. We were surviving on the money we had saved. Gradually, the virus started spreading and ration shops closed down. Then, we had two options – either face the disease on an empty stomach or walk home,” said 31-year-old Hembrom.Hembrom