‘Corona is better than hunger’: Why UP migrant labourers want to return to Mumbai

Migrant labourers who have returned to their native state Uttar Pradesh from various parts of the country during the COVID-19-induced lockdown, are returning back to work.

While lakhs of migrant workers continue to remain in Uttar Pradesh because of the pandemic, some now say they are willing to take the risk of returning to work. Khursheed Ansari, a migrant labourer, told NDTV that he works in a factory in Mumbai and had returned home just a month ago. "If there was employment in UP, I would not return. My company has not started yet but I am returning to find whatever work I can. Corona is better than hunger. It is better for me to die rather than my children to die of coronavirus," told NDTV.

According to a report by Mumbai Mirror, even though Uttar Pradesh government is offering Rs 225-a-day under an employment guarantee scheme, Dheer Bind, is returning back to Mumbai where he makes Rs 800 to Rs 900 a day. After his father passed away some years ago, Dheer is now the family’s only earning member, supporting two younger brothers and a sister. “Jise Mumbai ki aadat ho gayi hai, woh gaon me shayad hi ruk paye," Dheer told Mumbai Mirror.

Aiman Khan too was on his way back to Mumbai. “We own a small restaurant on Mira Road, Mumbai. On March 19, after the Covid-19 cases began spreading across the country, my brother Shahdab and I decided to go back to our hometown Lucknow. But now that the lockdown phase is almost over, we have decided to resume work at our restaurant since it is the only source of income for the family,” said Aiman Khan told Hindustan Times.

The outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic has had an adverse impact on the workforce in general and migrant workers in particular. A large number of migrant workers returned to several states. In Uttar Pradesh, nearly 30 lakh migrant workers have returned. Thirty-one districts of Uttar Pradesh have more than 25,000 returnee migrant workers.

Although the trains heading to Mumbai are not still fully filled, they head back largely carrying migrant workers who returned home in panic and haste. Industries in Maharashtra’s green zones have started functioning and are calling back workers who returned home during the lockdown.

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