Last week, a powerful image of a migrant worker in India crying along a roadside captured the struggles the poor are facing. Now, the tragic story behind the man’s expression has surfaced.
Press Trust of India (PTI) photographer, Atul Yadav, photographed 38-year-old Ram Pukar Pandit, a migrant labourer living in Nawada, while Pandit received a call from his wife from Bihar’s Begusarai disrict.
His wife informed him that their one-year-old baby had died on Monday.
"In the last few weeks, I have come across and photographed so many migrants, one more helpless than the other, and honestly I didn’t expect to feel surprised at the sight of a grown man crying. But I was," Atul wrote for PTI.
"When asked where he wanted to go, Pandit just said 'there'," Atul wrote.
“Pointing at the expanse of the road stretching across the Yamuna and meandering towards Delhi’s border some miles away. It was only later that the photographer found out that ‘there’ meant his home - Bariarpur in Begusarai in Bihar, almost 1,200 km away,” he added.
Atul offered him some biscuits and water and requested the police personnel in the vicinity to let him cross the border.
"They were reluctant, but since the request came from a media person they said they would ensure he reaches home," he wrote.
Indian media reports since then have claimed that on Thursday, officials from the East district of Delhi dropped him at New Delhi Railway Station where he boarded a special migrant train to Bihar along with hundreds of others.
India’s migrant labourers see no end to tragedies…
Pandit’s story is one of many on India’s migrant workers who are returning home amidst the coronavirus crisis. Many have lost their lives because of accidents, starvation and other calamities.
And it seems like their struggles have not yet ended.
On May 16, an image of another migrant worker supposedly walking for 1200 kilometres with his two children in baskets was shared online.
According to the post, the labourer was walking from the city of Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh to the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
People reacted online at the distressing image and many said that society has “failed” the poor in India.
Tweep @madhuriketa wrote: “One heartbreaking picture after other, they just don't seem to stop. We have failed the more vulnerable stratum of the society.”
Similarly, Twitter user @PoojaRanaTweets posted: “We live in a brutal society. This is what it means to be poor in India #MigrantLabour”
Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian finance minister, unveiled the fifth and last tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore ($265 billion) COVID-19 economic package as part of the “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India campaign)” on Sunday.
Part of the package promises to provide relief and aims to address the need for work for the returning migrants.