M Manoj Kumar and Karan Kumar were found walking, along with many others, to the Anand Vihar terminus for a bus to return to their hometown Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The two had been walking from their rented accommodation in South Delhi’s Rajokri Pahari, an urban migrant cluster adjacent to the posh farmhouses of Vasant Kunj, after the lockdown threw their lives into disarray.
Manoj Kumar. Photo by Rajwant Rawat
Manoj, a plumber, and Karan, who does odd jobs, were working under a contractor in Delhi and earning around Rs 13,000 and Rs 9,000 a month, respectively. However, now, not only have they lost their jobs, but neither has been paid their last month’s salary.
With their savings fast depleting, the two want to go home to their families. We have some money left which will sustain us for 15-20 days. But with no work, we cannot pay our rent of Rs 2,200. How would we send money to our families? The mobile recharge shops are shut, so how will we talk to them when our plan ends?
There is no worry of food in villages, and, at least, we will be among our people, says Manoj. The two will spend the lockdown period helping their family during harvest season.
This is the harvest time of rabi crops, when most migrant workers go home to help, says Santosh Kumar Mehrotra, professor of economics, Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He also points that many of them also hope to find employment with MGNREGA programmes in the villages.