Rajesh Chouhan , is a 26 year old migrant labour who was working for an IT hub in Bengaluru walked 1250 miles(2000 kilometre) to reach his village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. He lost his job when the national lockdown began. He was stranded at Bengaluru with many other migrant labourers without job, food, shelter and savings. With no way to survive in the cities and as the vast railway network was also shut , Rajesh decided to walk to his family with few more labourers of same village. At first he tried for vehicles and train service for going back to his village after 3rd May. But the vehicles were demanding high fees and he had just Rs150 left with him. Normally he pays 300 Rs for train tickets from Bangalore to his village but during pandemic the train ticket also got high to Rs 1200/-. On 12th May he decided to walk and started his journey with few other labourers. But he didn’t inform his family that he is returning home walking as his elderly sick parents will get worried. So he informed his family that he is still waiting for train tickets.
Earlier Rajesh was working at his village at Tribhuvan Nagar, which is a small village at Nepal border and he was earning Rs250/- per day. He shifted to Bengaluru as he is earning double and he can send money which is enough to sustain his family including his wife, two young children and elderly parents. He lives in a thatched roof house set amid sugarcane and wheat fields.
He walked for 10 long days. His legs were swollen and his blisters had burst. But he didn’t stop walking. Police were stopping migrant labourers from walking, so they followed railway tracks to avoid police on the roads. He was walking with 11 other migrant labourers and few of them had smart phones which helped them to navigate their routes. They used to walk for the entire day and slept for few hours at night in whichever place they halted during their journey back home.
On the journey Chouhan met with many other migrant labourers walking towards their villages. In the group there were Brahmins and Thakurs, who belonged to upper castes and even Chamars who belonged to lower caste. But while walking back home they were all united and they felt no differences between castes. People slept together and shared each other’s food and water. Rajesh broke his slipper on the 2nd day when everyone shared fund to buy him a new slipper. After that they walked for 5 days. They had money for buying biscuits only. After crossing Telengana- Maharashtra border they came across an NGO who offered them lunch and drinking water. 300 migrant labourers were sitting together and eating when suddenly police came and made them run as they were not maintaining social distancing. Food and water were snatched from many old men, females and children. Rajesh saw the cruel side of our society. Even the NGO was asked to stop giving food.
On the highway back to home, pandemic was of low priority to them. They thought they all will die in hunger, thirst, exhaustion and pain. Many migrant labourers died on the way either through starvation, exhaustion, or road and rail accidents.
Finally on the 8th day he reached the border of Uttar Pradesh and the joy of reaching near to his home gave him immense happiness and it made him forget all his pain. He reached his village on the 10th day when he was placed for quarantine by the local police.
Even after facing so many challenges in his way back home he never gave up. He believed in himself and stayed motivated which made him succeed in his journey back home.
So now, after reading my story, don’t you think Rajesh is the perfect example of a Superhero?
Written By : Anushka Roy