“If I don’t die due to coronavirus, I will definitely die of the hunger,”
said Deepak, a daily wage laborer sitting under Akshardham flyover. He is 32 years old and is a father of four children. His family stays in Purnia district in Bihar. He can neither return to his village nor afford to pay for shelter without work. He is one of the many who have lost their jobs and roofs from over their head when the companies were shut following orders of the central government to practice 21-day lockdown as a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic.
In the first week of lockdown, National Capital Region witnessed an exodus of migrants laborers, many walking hundreds of kilometers to their hometowns. The Uttar Pradesh and Delhi government had announced that they will ferry these workers to their hometown in state transport buses. Thousands of daily wage workers gathered outside Anand Vihar Bus Terminal, in the hope of getting a seat in a bus back to their home. Those who could not board buses were forced to return to their respective homes. The Delhi Government has set up 111 shelters homes specifically for migrant workers rendered homeless due to lockdown and promised to provide free breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I spent a day witnessing how a day unfolds at one of the shelters home in the capital.
Traumatized enough which the lockdown and policies in the city, Deepak said that if he manages to reach home, he will never return to Delhi looking for the job again. Others are desperate to reach their hometown even if it means walking all the way back.