Glimpses of how the Covid lockdown is affecting disabled migrants across India
Migrants in many parts of India have been forced to take extreme, often life-threatening, measures to get to their homes since the lockdown. Among the worst affected are people with disabilities.
It’s a long, tough journey of 1,200 kilometres but Ajay Kumar Saket is determined to make it.
Ajay is disabled in the right leg due to polio and uses the support of a cane. Three days ago, he set off for his home in Sehdol village in Madhya Pradesh from Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. He used to run a small stall here to earn a living. Since the lockdown, the stall has been shut and his savings have run out.
Ajay says he tried to get on board the Shramik train, which is being run by the government specially for migrant workers but changed his mind. Speaking to India Today, he said, “I had registered for the Shramik train five days ago and also got a medical certificate”. He decided not to wait for the train as he had no money left to buy food. “I felt I wouldn’t survive if I stayed here any longer”.
No earnings since lockdown
Ajay is walking home along with a few other migrants from his village. They are hopeful that they will meet good Samaritans on the way who will help them with food and water. Risking exhaustion and death, they are walking home determined to overcome all odds to get to their families.
Praveen Kumar is a little more fortunate. A worker with a bag manufacturing company in New Delhi, he has polio. Ten days ago, he set off for his home in Bihar’s Begusarai district on a tricycle. Although he pleaded with many bus drivers to help him, they refused.
“There were times I thought I wouldn’t make it home alive and almost gave up”, the 28-year-old said to The Times of India. He decided to persist inspired by an elderly woman he saw walking on foot.
A few days ago, Praveen was fortunate to meet another disabled migrant traveling from Mumbai called Madan Sah. Madan was also going home to Bihar on a motor-fitted tricycle. They are now in Bihar still together, motivating each other. Finally relieved to be in their home state and grateful for a friendship forged during Covid.
“We have met because of Corona. We will never give up on this friendship”, they say.
A few snapshots of how the pandemic and subsequent lockdown is leaving its imprint on people with disabilities across India.
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