For Rajesh Ram, a cook who wasn’t making much since his return to Chatra because of the lockdown, one call from his former employer in Bangalore helped make up his mind.
Last week he left for Bangalore. It helped that the proprietors of MLV PG Services, Bangalore, sent him a plane ticket.
Not many migrants have been as lucky as Ram. But with lockdown restrictions eased, most of them are now leaving Jharkhand to go back to cities _ Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad _ where they were working and earning before Covid-19 turned everyone’s world upside down.
After the sudden imposition of the lockdown in March, Ram found himself back at Chatra, But without work. He was thinking of returning to Bangalore when the call came.
Ram’s story highlights the reality of many migrant workers, who after having returned home, have had little by way of work. Many didn’t want to work under MGNREGA schemes for meagre daily wages.
With the lifting of lockdown restrictions, employers in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, who were faced with a serious manpower crunch, wanted them back.
Some employers have been making calls to labourers, requesting them to return, promising them flight tickets or sending air-conditioned buses to pick them up from their villages.
Others are hiring buses themselves in groups. On Friday evening, around 50 labourers from various villages of Vishnugarh block hired a bus to return to Mumbai.
One among them was Gobind Soren. Soren said he was facing a money crisis after returning from Mumbai where he was working in a garments company. He was worried about how to support his family.
“Yahan reh kar mai barbad ho jaaunga (I will get ruined here),” he said, before boarding the bus.
“Our employer had promised to pay for this journey. Yahan rehkar kuchh nahi hoga. Ulta hum log depression mein aa jayenge (Nothing will come of staying here. We will go into depression),” another labourer commented before leaving on another bus.
Another worker, Ramratan Singh, said it was not easy to survive without proper income.
“My family had got used to a good life where money doesn’t matter,” he added.He said they all got calls from their employer who asked them to get back. “After all, the threat of the coronavirus is everywhere. So, whether you live here or in Mumbai makes little difference,” he said, adding it was important to follow all guidelines and stay safe.
A social worker of Vishnugarh, Mahi Patel, said the exodus that has started wasn’t unexpected. “Many migrants worked under MGNREGA and knew well that it was not for people like them who were earning good money in bigger cities. Migration will always take place as Jharkhand lacked industries to provide them a job and good income,” he explained.