From Karmabhoomi to Janmabhoomi: Workers from Rajasthan, give up their decade-old business and pack up their bags
BL Soni

It is painful for any human being to abandon a place that has helped him to flourish and grow into a better human being with his family.

For Vikas Sharma (25), Mumbai gave his family a purpose of their livelihood. Sharma's family migrated to Mumbai twenty years back from Rajasthan after their whole family suffered immense losses in their family trade. Sharma's family struggled and with time set up their own business of garments at Goregaon. But amid the lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Sharmas have no income since the last three months and now they are forced to leave the city and go back to their hometown.

"Our income has stopped since the last three months due to the lockdown and we can't afford to pay rent of our house anymore. We are a family of five and now if we don't go back we will have to take shelter on the streets" said Vikas as he waited for a Shramik special train at the Borivli station on Monday afternoon.

"My father had set up the business by saving each penny. It is paining us to abandon everything like this and go away. But if we don't go, we will die of hunger over here" added Vikas.

On Monday nearly 200 people gathered at the Borivli station to board the train which originated from Mumbai Central station at 6:50 pm. On one hand the labourers were relieved to be finally able to go home, on the other they were quite apprehensive about the conditions inside the trains.

Sanjay Shankar (36) walked eight kilometres from Mira Road to Borivli with his wife and eight year old son as there was no transport available that would drop them to the station. The family of three had to carry two metal trunks and couple of small boxes on their own, as they were leaving the city unsure if ever they will ever return again.

"We waited for BEST bus for one hour, but not a single bus turned out, hence we decided to walk from Mira Road to Borivli," Shankar told FPJ.

"The platform is already overcrowded and I am travelling with a child, we are unsure whether we will get anything to eat or will be able to use the toilets. We are praying so that we can reach Jaipur safely," he added.

Most of the labourers who are stranded in Mumbai had earlier plans of working on their farms in Rajasthan. But that plan is also now short lived as the locust outbreak in Rajasthan has damaged a significant proportion of crops.

"I had to go back and help my family in reviving the agricultural fields as a lot of crops have been damaged due to the locust attack," said Shiv Bansal (45) a labourer from Rajasthan's Dausa district.

Bansal had a business of stationeries which was started by his father twenty years back, which he now looks after. Amid the lockdown as his income stopped completely, Bansal had to empty his shop first and later his house as he was unable to afford life in Mumbai.

He initially intended to go back and work in the farms in Rajasthan but however due to the locust attacks that ambition also appears uncertain.

"I don’t know what I will do after returning at Rajasthan because all our crops have been eaten by the locust swarms. We are only going there so that we can get a roof above our heads. We had to leave Mumbai because surviving here without any earning has become impossible for us now," Bansal said, as he waited for his train with his family at Borivli station.

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