Patna: A tribal villager from India’s Jharkhand state walked seven months along the railway track to reach home after the COVID-19 lockdown left him jobless.
Berjom Bamda Pahadiya, 54, reached his village in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district over the weekend after trekking more than 1,200km from Delhi with no money in his pocket to buy a train or bus ticket.
Pahadiya had gone to Delhi in February last year to earn a for his family of seven. He was taken there by a labour contractor who had promised him attractive wages and shelter in lieu of work. However, a little over a fortnight after he reached Delhi, the Indian government enforced a nationwide lockdown, leaving him jobless and without shelter.
“I worked for some 20 days in the national capital but the contractor paid me nothing. Instead, he snatched all the money, about Rs7,000, I had brought from home and all my belongings after the lockdown was imposed in March,” Pahadiya told local media on Tuesday.
He said he initially survived on food provided by some NGOs, but then decided to walk back home as he had no money. He set off on foot in August last year but finally reached his village on March 13, seven months later.
He lost his way many times as he only knew how to speak Santhali, a local dialect spoken in parts of Jharkhand, and no other Indian language. Also, he had to work midway through the journey to earn money for food, which delayed his journey further.
“I walked along the railway tracks in broken rubber sandals asking for the route to Jharkhand but lost my way many times as I didn’t understand what the people were saying,” Paahdiya said. He begged for food and water from local villagers on the way.
Eventually, he reached a railway station in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand on Saturday when an NGO official spotted the frail man walking along the track in tattered clothes and provided him food. On inquiry, it was found that he had been travelling for months, often going without food for want of money. The official then arranged a vehicle to take him home.
Moved by his heart-rending tale, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Sore has directed officials to provide financial support to his family and also give benefits of development schemes.
Acting on the instruction, a local official went to Pahadiya’s village and provided him cash as well as food. The government is also trying to connect his family with livelihood schemes. Officials said the chief minister has asked Jharkhand State Livelihood Mission Society to explore ways to give employment to the Pahadiya family.
As per news reports in the local media, around 654,000 migrant workers of Jharkhand were stranded across the country in April last year and the state government received more than 17,800 distress calls from such workers within a week.