Despite government assurances and civil society groups reaching out to him, Md Farhad Hussain, a 25-year-old, felt there would be no peace till he was back home.
Home is in a village in Bihar. On Monday, when the Uttar Pradesh government started transferring migrants to isolation centres, Hussain was on the streets of Lucknow, looking for a bus that would take him to the UP-Bihar border.
He made this reporter an offer of money in exchange for transport. Bas ghar pahuncha do (Just get me home), he pleaded.
Hussain is employed by a contractor who deals in air-conditioning units. He had been working at the Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow. “One day, the contractor said that work had been stopped and we were on our own. He did not even pay me for the 15 days that I had worked for,” Hussain said.
By Monday evening, when civil society volunteers, donating provisions to the most needy, reached Hussain’s room at the Ghulam Hussain Purwa locality, he had already left. Their assurances that he would be looked after, and this reporter’s reasoning that he was safer in Lucknow, had not made any difference.
Speaking on the phone from his village, Hussain said that he had boarded a bus to Faizabad on Monday evening “I carried my small bag and waited by the road asking every bus where it was headed,” he said. From Faizabad, he hopped on to at least five trucks to take him to the border. He was sometimes alone and sometimes five or six others joined him. “I tried to be as safe as possible,” he said.
On the Bihar border, he does not remember being stopped by anyone. However, trucks were difficult to come by. So he walked and hitched lifts on two-wheelers whenever possible. His home was about 80 kilometres from the border, and the last 10 of these he had to walk.
“There is a medical camp near my village. I have been told to go and get myself examined. I have been too tired to do that till now,” he told THE WEEK at 10.30 am on Wednesday.
At home, Hussain has his parents and two younger brothers. “We don’t have land. But there will be enough to eat. In this situation, one does get worried about one’s family. Everything in the city is about this beemari (illness); here there is some peace”, he said.
Hussain’s job in Lucknow got him a salary of Rs 15,000 of which he could send Rs 10,000 home. He now has Rs 300 in his pocket.
He hopes to come back when the scare of the coronavirus is over. “There is nothing to do there. Man is nothing without money. I have put a lock on my rented room. Hopefully, the room and the job will be available when I get back,” he said.
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