There were hundreds of migrant labourers who left the city last year and declared never to return find themselves back in Bengaluru in the midst of a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Rajesh Kumar, a carpenter from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh was one among the scores of migrant labourers who made the strenuous journey from Bengaluru to his home on foot, after the lockdown last year, swearing to never return.
A year after the Union government imposed the 21-day lockdown, he is back but now in Mumbai amidst a second wave raising fears of another lockdown. “The lockdown days in Bengaluru were tough. Even getting two meals a day had become difficult. I vowed never to return to a city again, but agriculture in the village doesn’t sustain the family,” he said.
“I came to Mumbai four months ago. But with the number of cases rising, there is talk of a lockdown. Just the thought of another lockdown sends shivers down my spine. I plan to return to my village this week,” he told The Hindu over the phone on Tuesday.
The migrant labourers who suffered during the lockdown and escaped from Bengaluru last year have returned to the city, but they all fear that a second wave will see them get trapped in another lockdown.
Mohammed Haroon, a painter from Bihar, who returned to Bengaluru hardly in two weeks’ time said, “There is no work in the village. The summer months are going to be even worse. So I came back”. He, too, is worried about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the city and the sight of the government forcing constraints that will affect his means of living. “One of my relatives went to Rajasthan for work and found those night curfews had been imposed. I don’t want to be stuck in another lockdown,” he added.
Firoz Ahmed, a barber from Uttar Pradesh working at a shop on Tannery Road, had left the city on one of the trains arranged by the government last May and returned four months later. He is more positive and says “Though the number of cases is rising, going by media reports, neither the State nor the Union government seems to be willing to impose a lockdown. I don’t think there is anything to fear” He also added that though lockdown was troublesome in the city, he was also a receiver of kindness from strangers who provided food.
Jadhab Burman, a carpenter from Siliguri in poll-bound West Bengal, said he came back to Bengaluru a month ago saying that ‘elections are not a good time to stay in the village’. “In a hotly contested election like this, even if one wants to keep out of the scuffles, you are dragged into it if you are in the village, and their consequences last for years. So I returned to Bengaluru. Besides, there was no work back home,” he said.