Name: Amit Kumar
Hometown: Bansa, Uttar Pradesh
Returned from: Noida, Uttar Pradesh
Amit Kumar worked at Richa Global sewing sports items in Noida, Uttar Pradesh for the past seven years. He earned Rs. 10,332 every month to cover the expenses of a family of three. The lockdown shutdown the manufacturing-plant, and forced him to borrow Rs. 12,000 to cover rent and other expenses. There was no certainty of a roof over his head, food on his plate, or a source of income, Amit returned to Barabanki.
Interviewer: How did you initially react to the pandemic? What compelled you to make this journey? Share the specifics of your ride back to Uttar Pradesh.
Amit Kumar: The first time I was introduced to the Covid-19 virus was in December 2019, when it was spreading in China. The next encounter was towards 19th February, an individual traveling from Italy to a university in Delhi was infected. The same individual proceeded to Agra, and then to Bengaluru. The spread was inevitable. The factory advised us to wear protective gear, and avoid direct contact. Suddenly, it was declared a pandemic, and the cases exceeded beyond 10,000. In the upcoming days, the lockdown was declared, I lost my employment; I lost my ability to financially support the family and myself.
I have a smartphone; I downloaded WhatsApp, Aarogya Setu, Aaj-Tak, ABP, and other similar applications. I do not rely on WhatsApp for verified information, I source that from the news channels. I believe everything they have to say. Through my phone, I heard Yogi Ji has instructed the migrants to use the state-sponsored bus service instead of paying for private vehicles. I called and booked my tickets at once.
The bus departed from Noida at 2 p.m. on the 26th of May and reached the next day at 4 p.m. Usually, this journey takes 11 hours, however, the driver delayed — adding 11 more hours to the journey as the authorities had mandated to transport all migrants by the 30th of May, and the driver did not wish to drive the same route again risking his life. The policemen on the way assured ‘khichdi’ and water.
I informed the Pradhan Ji (Village Council Head) of my arrival. Since the facilities at the school quarantine centres were lacking, the state insisted on home-quarantine. On the 27th of May, I arrived at the medical centre in Barabanki for a check-up and quarantined alone in my house. The ASHA workers were informed as well; they visited my house to stick a warning sign and instructed to diligently follow all guidelines. Five days later, the Pradhan Ji asked for me at the Gram Panchayat as testing kits were available. The report marked me safe allowing me to move freely.
The food during my quarantine was provided in separate utensils I can wash myself and masks were worn throughout.
Interviewer: Has the pandemic affected your livelihood?
Amit Kumar: I have not been able to find work since my return. I do wish to return, but I will not work at the same factory again. The organisation paid Rs. 5,000 to the workers who waited in the city, not to me. How is that fair? The G.M. and the supervisor were permitted to retain 30% of the workers, and the selection was based upon their relationship with the worker, not their competence. I do believe the government could have regulated the procedure to ensure we get our salaries, but the administration holds the larger blame.
Interviewer: You have experienced the pandemic in both an urban and rural setting. Did you observe any common practice or are the two contrasting?
Amit Kumar: It is harder to follow the guidelines in the village. No one is employed; it is the only and biggest worry at the moment. Any earning will be spent on food, not sanitizers or masks. Although, since the spike in cases, the villagers are much more cautious. There are not many strangers in the village, there is always trust in another person, but not in the city. I do not know anyone from my building, how will I be aware of everyone I have been in contact with?