A heavy-lift dumper truck with 10 wheels is seen parked on a dusty highway on the outskirts of Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur. Some people who are sitting on the bare metal of the truck’s cargo hold become visible from the ground as they stand up to look for water amid the scorching May afternoon. The cargo hold is hot to touch because of the summer heat.
They are migrant workers and their families who have come home hundreds of kilometres from down south in Telangana, over 800 km away.
“We have been sitting under the sun for nearly two hours,” says one of the migrants. “We haven’t eaten anything. There is no water,” he says.
Some women with their heads partly covered are seen trying to shield their crying children from the heat with their saree.
“We have been travelling on this truck for four days from Hyderabad,” says another worker.
The truck’s cargo hold is exposed to the elements. There is no cover, not even the blue plastic sheets usually used by truckers. “The Chhattisgarh government is not helping us at all. There are over 100 people on this truck. Why are they not helping us?” says the worker.
They ask for food and water to be given, at least to the children who are sitting silently on the cargo hold, unsure of whether help would reach them.
Thousands of migrant workers have attempted going back home amid the lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. The government has tried to persuade them to stay put to ensure the highly infectious COVID-19 doesn’t spread.
After days of thousands of migrants trying to walk or cycle home in the absence of transport, however, the government relented and launched special trains to take them home.
Most migrant workers say they are running out of food and essentials and they consider going back to their villages would give them security at this time of hardship.
India reported 3,320 new coronavirus patients and 95 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 59,662 cases. The total number of deaths is now 1,981.
The pandemic will hit its peak in India in July-end before being contained, the World Health Organisation has said.