“Coronavirus Better Than Hunger,” Say UP Migrant Workers Going Back To Work

30 lakh-plus migrant workers who returned to Uttar Pradesh during the lockdown are going back to work.

As India continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and flagging economic growth, some of Uttar Pradesh’s 30 lakh-plus migrant workers who returned during the lockdown are going back to work.

People are thronging at the government bus stand in eastern Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria, 50 km from the railway junction in Gorakhpur. Trains and to Maharashtra, Gujarat and elsewhere start from here.

Each passenger has a story to narrate. Most of them didn’t want o their families to starve.

Mr Abid works in a textile factory in Mumbai and said that his large tailoring unit is still shut and that he returned home just a month ago.

“If there was employment in UP, I would not return. My company has not started yet but I am returning to find whatever work I can. Corona is better than hunger. It is better for me to die rather than my children to die of coronavirus,” Mr Abid told before boarding the bus.

Mr Shambu, a technician in a Kolkata firm, had come home to UP due to the lockdown. He is returning to Kolkata, now that his firm has started work. He must go, so that he can help his family of six children and his wife and his old mother. When asked about the pandemic, he said that “I am scared but I am also scared to live here. How will I eat and feed my family?” said Mr Shambu.

Many people in eastern Uttar Pradesh are planning to go back despite the state government promising work in the state itself. The state government claimed an all-time record in the number of people working under MNREGA  in Uttar Pradesh and also said employment for 60 lakh people was being generated in small industries, on Saturday.

People from remote and backward East UP district that has seen the maximum number of returning migrant workers.  Many of them were returning to Mumbai because government schemes and promises have not reached him. “There is good money in Mumbai but I will not be able to manage here (in Uttar Pradesh). Even if schemes are being taken out, they are not reaching us. It is like being unemployed. There is no work here. You go to anyone and they say there is no work, ”  said few passengers.

At the railway station in Ballia, also in eastern Uttar Pradesh and on the border with Bihar, many are now heading back to Ahmedabad to search work for themselves.

“The government is giving ration but there are other expenses and there is no work here except under MNREGA. I have a shop there (in Ahmedabad) and a room on rent. The rent is accumulating and if I do not return, how will I pay that?”  said one of them.

While lakhs of migrant workers continue to remain in Uttar Pradesh because of the pandemic, some now say they are willing to take the risk of returning to work.

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