She walks with a small child on her hip and drags a suitcase behind her. A video of another young Indian migrant worker, who has undertaken a 1200km-journey from Surat in Gujarat to Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, on foot, went viral on Twitter on May 2.
While her name is not known, many Indians have tweeted the video asking India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, why the PMCares fund was not being used to provide free transportation to these migrant workers. Millions of such workers across the country were left without jobs, food or money, after the government announced a sudden lockdown.
An Indian journalist who noticed the video, checked the distance between the two cities on Google maps. He found that the woman would be covering over 1200km over an estimated 10 days to walk the entire route.
The woman is among thousands of Indian migrant workers who started walking last month, from urban cities where they work, back to their villages in remote parts of the country, after a nationwide lockdown was announced in March. Most of them left their villages to work as daily-wage labourers.
After tweeps and journalists started sharing such stories, and questioning lawmakers about the plight of India’s poor migrant workers, last week the government announced trains to these migrants back to their villages. However, tickets were chargeable and most of these workers already struggle with abject poverty.
@SkGolamRasul7 posted: “Imagine the plight of poor migrant labourers in India. This woman is walking from Surat to Allahabad (1200KM) along with her kid and luggage.
Modi govt is busy publicity and poor are suffering on the street. #Lockdown3 #LOCKDOWN2020 #FreeMigrantTrains”
And, @srivatsayb tweeted: “Can't even imagine the plight of this woman, carrying her child & walking from Surat to Allahabad. Railways has only a few trains and charging Ticket + Surcharge. Modiji, is it so difficult to arrange #FreeMigrantTrains? What are u doing with PMCARES fund?”
Indian journalist Faye Dsouza also took to Twitter to post: “Charging migrant labourers for the train tickets to go back home is cruelty. This is what government relief is meant for. This is what people have been donating funds for, so that the poor can be given this relief.”
As reported by Gulf News earlier today, Indian Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi said that her party will bear the cost for rail travel of every needy migrant worker and labourer to their respective home towns during the lockdown.
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In an April 22 report, the World Bank highlighted that the nationwide lockdown in India which started about a month ago has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants. While the country’s government has promised millions in relief to poor labourers, help has not reached most of them, according to news reports.