New Delhi, Jan 9: Migrant labourers, who during the previous coronavirus-induced lockdown, ran out of food, struggled to access healthcare and faced acute livelihood problems, are once again returning to their home states fearing that the weekly curfew may be converted into a lockdown as Covid surge continues.
Fearing lockdown in the national capital, migrant labourer Hemant Maurya has already left for his home state.
"Last time, I got stuck in the national capital with my family. Duration of lockdown was extended gradually and I faced a lot of hardship. That's why when this time I heard of curfew, I left the national capital," Maurya said.
He further said: "If the curfew is not extended, we will come back. Fearing lockdown, I left for home on January 6. Will face problem due to unemployment, but if life will be saved, will find some work. This time I was accompanied by four fellow labourers."
Hemant is not the only one, 33-year-old Raju, resident of Gonda district, also returned home.
Raju said: "In the previous lockdown, my kids were staying with me. We did not have money and had to survive without food for one day. After borrowing money from my friend, I returned home. This time, I did not wait for anything. If curfew will not be extended, we will return."
"One of my villagemen Vinod has also returned along with me. Covid cases are increasing. We will think about going back when the situation becomes normal," Raju further said.
Delhi's daily Covid tally has crossed over 20,000 cases in a day. Due to surge in infection, lockdown is likely to be imposed, which is a cause of concern for the migrant labourers.
Although the government has imposed night and weekend curfew to contain Covid, but given the current situation, migrant labourers are taking no chances this time and are either preparing or opting to leave for home.
Toufiq Ahmed, a contractor in a society in Delhi's Prem Nagar, is a resident of Ambedkar Nagar. Many people from his village work under him. Even before the imposition of curfew in the national capital, eight of the migrant labourers left for their home.
Ahmed told IANS that eight labourers have already returned home and others are likely to follow.
"Despite our assurance to the migrant labourers that there will be no shortage of food, they are scared," Ahmed added.
"The workers who faced hardships during previous lockdowns are frightened and are rushing for their homes. At the same time, bus fare has also increased. Earlier, a private bus from Prem Nagar to Ambedkar Nagar used to charge Rs 1,000 which has now been increased to Rs 1,200," he pointed out.
Ahmed said: "Labourers of Bihar, Gonda and Moradabad have left for their homes. Three labourers left two days ago and earlier, three workers left. We want that they should return early, failing which work would be affected. All the labourers who have left for their homes have not informed when they will come back."
However, many private operators, who sit outside Anand Vihar Bus Stand and look after buses operating for Bihar, said the situation is grim, so they are charging the high fare.
Most of the people who work in Delhi come from other states. If Covid situation does not improve, the national capital could re-witness the problems faced during the previous lockdowns.
On Monday the Kejriwal government will review the Covid situation in Delhi and will take a call whether to impose lockdown or not.