On Tuesday morning, Pinki (26) and her husband left their home in Jhilmil Settlement in Delhi, filled with anxiety. The couple worked at a printing plant near their home, but their employer told them he would not be paid during the lockdown and should consider leaving town and returning when work resumes. With no savings, they borrowed money from their neighbors and left with their three children in search of a bus that could take them to Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh.
Standing with her children at Anand Vihar ISBT while her husband looked for a bus, Pinki said, “We are afraid we won’t have a bus today. My husband and I are out of savings because our landlord forced us to pay rent this month and our employers haven’t paid us anything for the past 20 days. How will we survive here if there is a longer lockdown? The printing house produces school books and election posters, but our employers have not paid us now because the books are not printed these days. Every time I see an election poster, I feel cheated. Nobody helped us.
“It’s been over three hours now, I’m tired but there is no bus. We cannot afford a private AC bus. Not that I want to stay in Sitapur because we won’t find permanent work there. I wish the schools would reopen soon so that I could print books again, ”she said.
Hundreds of migrants, some of whom were unable to catch buses or trains on Monday, when a weeklong lockdown went into effect in Delhi, gathered in Anand Vihar to try again on Tuesday.
Geeta (38), a worker, lost her job last week and was planning to return home with her son and husband, but the crowd “scared” her.
“We left our house after watching the CM announcement on television. We get 400 rupees a day, but our employers have said the factory will not open for at least a month. When we came here yesterday, I almost lost my son in the crowd. We missed our bus and got so scared we went home. Today we are ready to go but there is no bus. I packed parathas for the kids. We will now be working in Hamirpur, UP. I don’t want to come back here anymore, ”Geeta said.
The family moved to Delhi last year but had to leave during the first lockdown. In December, they returned and found a job, but suffered another setback.
Although the terminal was lined with government buses, many seats were full as passengers booked their tickets online. In private AC buses, passengers claimed that drivers charge up to Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 for a seat.
Bhim Singh (50), who works in a fabric factory, said he and his wife were initially going to attend a friend’s wedding in Bihar’s Arrah, but have now decided not to return.
“The factory is closed, my children have already left and live with their grandparents. We will do agriculture. Last week, during the nighttime curfew, I asked my neighbor to book my tickets. It’s scary here, people are jostling each other and no one is wearing a mask. My children call me every hour. We just want to go back and stay in Bihar now, ”he said.