Migrant workers scramble for water, biscuits and bananas in UP's Prayagraj
Migrant workers scramble for water, biscuits and bananas in UP's Prayagraj Image Credit: Twitter

They were out of work, and had no money for food or medicine. Two more reports emerged on social media, this weekend, of Indian migrant workers who died trying to cover long distances, to head back to their villages, amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

As India extends its lockdown for two more weeks, Indians are taking to Twitter to share stories of how the country’s poor migrant labourers are the worst affected.

Migrant worker dies after cycling over 1,200kms

On Friday, Dharamveer, a migrant worker who had been cycling for over four days to cover 1,200kms, between the Indian capital Delhi and Bihar's Khagaria, collapsed and died.

Dharamveer was part of a group of seven people, who reached Uttar Pradesh’s Shahjahanpur district on Friday morning. They spent a night there, and planned to leave the next day.

However, Dharamveer, collapsed next morning. He was rushed to a hospital in the district, and died on the way.

Reportedly, the autopsy revealed chronic lung disease as the cause of death. His Covid-19 test report showed a negative result.

According to Indian news reports, a fellow worker said: “We were coming from Delhi. We had started four days ago on bicycles. We slept at night after eating. He was speaking to the people till early morning then we don't know what happened.”

The state government officials said that they are arranging an ambulance to send Dharamveer's body home and also trying to arrange vehicles for the other six members of the group.

Migrant worker dies after walking 100km

In another part of the country, 26-year-old Hari Prasad reportedly died of exhaustion, after he walked around 100 km from the city of Bengaluru to reach home, earlier this week. The incident came to light on Thursday, April 30.

According to Indian news website thenewsminute.com: “A native of Mittapalle village in Ramasamudram mandal and had migrated to Bengaluru to do odd jobs. With the lockdown announced and no means of livelihood available, he began walking to his native village and reached on Monday.”

However, within a day he fell sick and collapsed after which he was rushed to a local hospital where he passed away on Tuesday. The locals in the village did not allow his family to bring back the body over fears of the coronavirus.

Medical officials were informed about the incident and they rushed to the village from Punganur, on Wednesday, and collected swab samples from the dead body, which tested negative.

Following this, locals allowed the family to conduct Hari Prasad's last rites on the outskirts of the village.

‘Why were the migrants ignored?’, ask Indian netizens

Tweeps have shared these and other such reports, tagging lawmakers and asking why there was not enough planning before enforcing a lockdown.

@RanjuSarkar tweeted: “As we will realise, it is migrant workers who were running India's economy and you failed them @narendramodi. You ould have corrected things after the initial goof-ups and let them go home. You forced a lockdown without much thought like #demonetisation.”

Facebook user Pradeep N posted: “I want to ask the government why millions of India’s poor labourers not taken into account before shutting the country’s transport system? Do they not mean anything because they are poor? How is it even possible to ignore such a huge number. They seem to be important when elections are close.”

Migrants scramble for food at rest centers

Reportedly, the Indian government had promised stops across the country for migrant workers to rest and get food. However, many Indian media reports and news videos show these workers saying that they struggled for food even in these rest stops.

A video went viral on Twitter today, showing migrant workers scrambling for bananas and water outside the fence of one such center in the state of UP. Indian journalist, Alok Pandey, shared a clip on May 1.

He tweeted: “These visuals were shot earlier at a place of rest for migrant workers coming into UP’s Prayagraj, from Madhya Pradesh. There is a scramble for water, biscuits and bananas…”

Tweep @ruchi_raizada posted: “This is heart wrenching! #Shame on BJP, Modi and Yogi government .They can waste money in lighting diyas but can't arrange food n water for poor migrants.”

A similar video had gone viral in April, showing an isolation center in the Agra district, where isolated workers were struggling for food and water.

What the government is doing

The Indian government had also announced a $23 billion (Dh85 billion) aid package to help the poor, including migrant workers, but relief has been patchy across the country, according to reports.

Taking note of the situation, the central government on Thursday decided to operate special trains to help migrant labourers reach their native places. However, while Indians stranded abroad pay nothing for evacuation, these poor migrant workers have to pay to return home.

Tweep @ChandraKodi3 posted: “Charging extra fare for special trains to transport migrant workers is beyond sense of comprehension. While stranded Indians were flown back in special evacuation flights operated by Air India and paid for by the government. Free of cost. Rules differ from rich to poor.”

The nationwide lockdown, imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, has been extended till May 17.