Banda/Ballia (UP): Many migrant workers who had undertaken an arduous journey back home to Uttar Pradesh after losing their livelihood due to the COVID-19 lockdown say they would rather live on ‘sookhi roti’ (dry bread) than leave their native places again.
Be it Shivlakhan from Banda district who was engaged in a saree factory in Gujarat’s Surat, Imran from Ballia who worked as a house painter in Mumbai, or Anil Kumar, an engineer, who came back from Solapur — all say they would do anything in their village but won’t go to other states.
“We will eat ‘sookhi roti’ in our village rather than go to another state again for a job. The circumstances have taught us that our well-wishers are here only,” a migrant worker said.
Shivlakhan, who had started on foot from Gujarat with his minor daughter and pregnant wife for Bhadawal village, said, “I used to earn Rs 550 daily in a saree factory in Surat. But it closed and the owner sacked me without giving due salary.”
“With no option left, I decided to return to our village with my two-year-old daughter and pregnant wife. We started on foot and finally reached here after facing immense difficulties. I don’t have a job card, the village head did not give me any work. I have applied for the job card,” he said.
Deepak from the same village who also used to work in that saree factory in Surat said he used to earn Rs 11,000 each month, but returned home after the unit downed its shutters. “I am sitting at home unemployed,” he said.
In Ballia’s Chainpur village, 40-year-old Imran Khan is worried about his son’s education. He spent over two decades in Mumbai working as a painter. But once the lockdown was imposed, he lost his livelihood.
“I have to support my father, wife and two children. Due to lockdown I was not getting work and had to return to my village. The village head has taken my Aadhaar and bank account details. My son has done graduation, but I will not be able to afford his education further,” he said.
Despite this, Imran has no plan to return to Mumbai. “I will live in the village. We received no help in Mumbai, everybody ignored us.”
Anil Kumar Verma (40), who had a job as a safety engineer at Solapur in Maharashtra, returned to Uttar Pradesh on board a Shramik Special train and is lodged in a quarantine centre in Ballia’s Siyarhiya village.
“I started on Shramik special train on May 19 and reached here on May 23. My family is living in Narain Garh village. I have not got anything from the government, my friends have also distanced themselves. Neither the administration nor the village panchyat arranged for our food. Some social organisations are giving us food.
“In bad days, no one helped in Solapur and there is no point in returning. I will get some work in my village. It seems God doesn’t want my children to study in a convent school. They will now go to government schools,” he said.
Head of Banda’s Bhadawal village Ramendra Verma said 274 people have returned home and of them, 150 have been being engaged in earth digging work under MGNREGA and they get Rs 205 daily.
“There are many who did not want to work. They are ashamed of these kinds of works in the village after returning here after a long time,” he said.