When India went under a strict lockdown in March, migrant workers were left unable to work when their job sites (like factories) were forced to shut down1. Living on a daily wage, many felt they had no choice but to return to their homes, often hundreds or thousands of kilometres away, in rural areas. For those unable to get transportation, they’ve been forced to return home on foot. This has led to over 100 deaths and even more injuries, either from accidents or exhaustion2.
Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission has been involved in outreach to migrant workers, providing over 460 food packets to families in need. Below is a story from Mukti:
There are many heartbreaking stories among the migrant workers. As my residence is facing the state highway, most of the time, I see broken families. Having packed their scanty belongings, they make their way back to their own state. I saw a couple, with the wife balancing a little infant on her hip, and a bundle of clothes on her head. The husband had another bag on his shoulder and a toddler holding his hand. With tears rolling down their cheeks, they had been walking on foot, not knowing when they would reach their destination.
Some of these families have to travel thousands of kilometres to reach their hometown. The migrant workers with whom Mukti is associated are so grateful that Mukti has spared their lives, saving them from having to sleep under the railway tracks with their families.
“Thank you Mukti Mission for coming to our aid. We would have done a foolish thing by making a decision to leave Kedgaon!” one family shared. “From the feedback we have received from our friends who left their workplace and took the risk of going home, are now in very bad shape. Most of them suffered from all kinds of illness on the way. Some died and others are on the way to die. Those who have managed to reach their destination through difficulties are not allowed to live in the village. Their hometown neighbours and friends are not willing to take the risk of accepting them back. Hence, in other words, they are neither here nor there. This is the plight of migrant workers all over India. Praise God for Mukti Mission who stretched forth their hand of love, kindness and generosity which we will forever be indebted to. In no way, we can repay you for what you have been doing for us, but we know that there is a God who will reward you.”