Name: Ramagya Prasad
Hometown: Gonauli, Bihar
Returned from: Gurgaon, Haryana
Ramagya Prasad worked in Gurgaon for the past five years. It was through another local he found the stitching job and left since a person would do whatever is possible to earn; even if it means going outside. At first, the work slowed down, and later it stopped without any warning. He waited for a month for work to restart. However, when it did not, Ramagya along with fifteen others rented a truck back to Bihar.
Interviewer: Share your reaction to the lockdown, and what led you to make the journey in the following days?
Ramagya Prasad: I own a smartphone on which I have social-media applications, but no time to use them. I text and use YouTube to source information. I heard of the Covid-19 virus after the curfew. Initially, it was supposed to last a day, then a week, and later it seemed indefinite.
I lived with three others from the village. We shared a room for Rs. 3,000, including electricity. The work slowed down at first and later was shutdown. A month had passed without earnings, so, we decided to loan money to rent a truck back to Bihar. The truck driver charged Rs. 2,500 per person for sixteen people and dropped us in Khushinagar, Gorakhpur. During the three-day journey, we only got food in Uttar Pradesh and no other location. We halted only thrice for food and water. Other than that, the policemen add to the delay. From Gorakhpur, we took an auto to the border and there onwards we walked. I left on the 14th of May and reached on the 16th with finally getting home on the 29th of May.
My employer only continues hiring me because he is satisfied with my work. If he asked me to wait for work to restart, I would have. We work under a master who I am sure will soon pay our dues.
Upon reaching the village, we took the initiative to quarantine ourselves at the centre. I was there for twelve days; the provision of food was enough, I got sprouts and jaggery in the morning, and ‘dal’, rice, and vegetables for dinner. I could not argue, I accepted what they gave. It was the four of us in one room with a total of two hundred individuals at the centre. The doctors visited daily to check our temperature. However, no Covid-19 test was performed. There were communal bathrooms that were cleaned, or we cleaned the whole space ourselves. People from BDO came to interview us once a day regarding the food, and that was it.
Interviewer: How has the pandemic repurposed your lifestyle? What challenges did you experience in the process, and do you require any assistance from the government?
Ramagya Prasad: I worked in Haryana for the past six years earning Rs. 12,000 a month with expenditure costing Rs. 2,000 and saving Rs. 6,000. The work is erratic there, so, the monthly income would range around the same figure. I did not study beyond 8th grade. Before leaving, I worked in Bihar for Rs. 250 a day and a rough sum of Rs. 3,000 every month because here too, work was irregular.
My family owns the house we reside in, and I have the financial responsibility of my parents, wife, and children. The two kids go to school. While I am not the only earning member, it requires Rs. 30,000 to run the house, including all expenses.
I have been idle since my return. We have to survive on — ration and whatever remains of the savings. I await a potential source of income. We have to eat too, right? However, I have decided I will not leave the village amidst the pandemic. The situation does incite fear, and it is a strange disease, everyone should fear it.
The future seems uncertain. I wish I continued with my education; things would have been different now. I began working at the age of 18, like others around the village.
I cannot demand things from the government, I can only accept what they give, and I will do so righteously. I have not looked for any government schemes.