New Delhi: Emphasising on the plight of the migrant workers, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday released a documentary of his meeting with the migrant workers walking back to their native place in Uttar Pradesh's Jhansi from Haryana and said that the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has hit them hard.
The 16-minute documentary was released by the Congress on its YouTube channel.
Rahul Gandhi, who is also the Lok Sabha MP from Kerala's Wayanad, had met the migrant labourers in the national capital near the Sukh Dev Vihar flyover in south east Delhi on May 15.
Before the release of the documentary, Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and wrote, "A few days back, I met with these brothers and sisters who were walking to their home towns near Jhansi. Today at 9 a.m., watch the story of their patience, determination and self reliance on my YouTube channel."
In the documentary, the Congress leader can be seen sitting on the street along with the migrant workers and talking to them. Narrating the story of the migrant workers, Rahul Gandhi said, "Corona has hurt a lot of people, but the worst hit are the labourers, who walked on the streets for hundreds of kilometres. They walked with empty stomach, they didn't stop and were beaten, threatened but still they managed to walk to their homes."
"I want to show you what are their fears, their aspirations, and how is their future and what they feel about it," he said.
During the conversation with the former Congress chief, Mahesh, a migrant worker from Jhansi narrating his ordeal, said that the group has been walking for last one day and has travelled over 120 km on foot and they are going back to their native place without any money and support from the government.
"I am Mahesh Kumar, from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, I have already walked 120 km. Since yesterday we have been walking and we have been walking in the night. Now what we can do, we have to walk to our homes," he informed the Congress leader.
Another woman migrant worker told Rahul Gandhi, "We are hungry for last three days. I also have my child, who is hungry for three days. We have worked for four to five days and the money that we had is finished in the last two months, now what to do, so we have decided to go back to our homes on foot."
Another woman migrant worker told Rahul Gandhi that she has no money to buy food and "no one is ready to help". "Then what should we do, it is our majboori (helplessness)," she said.
The Congress leader then asked another migrant worker from the group - that from where they were coming, to which the workers in unison replied that they were coming from Haryana.
"We used to work as labourers. We are walking along with our family members. We have walked for over 100 kilometres from Haryana," one of the migrant worker replied to Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi further asked them how did they come to know about the nationwide lockdown, to which the group said that they came to know about the lockdown instantly.
"We were paying Rs 2,500 as rent. And we are going to Jhansi and we are walking without money," one of the migrant worker said.
When the Congress leader asked how manage food, as they do not have the money, one of the woman workers said, "We are getting the food from some people who stop their vehicle and feed us. We came to know about the lockdown on March 21 evening. It was said that on March 22, there will be Bharat Band, and we thought that it is for just one day."
"The government should have given four-day notice," one of the migrant worker told Rahul Gandhi to which he again asked what they would have done if they would have known in advance. To this, the migrant workers replied, "We would have returned back to our homes."
When the Congress leader inquired about how they were managing their expenses during the lockdown, one of the workers said, "We took udhar (credit) from our neighbours and then some of our families sold the farm produce and then sent money to some of the people here."
The Congress leader further asked them why did they decide to go back, to which they said, "The lockdown is being extended everytime. And we are still unclear if it will be extended again."
When Rahul Gandhi enquired if they will come back to work in Haryana in the coming days, the group in unison said that they have not decided about it yet. "We are going back to save our lives."
The group also informed the Congress leader that they have left most of their belongings in the rented accommodation in Haryana. "We are not bothered about that. We have left the utensils of our kitchens there. If life is saved then more utensils can be bought," one of the woman from the group said.
When the Congress leader enquired if they got any monetary help from the government, the group said that they have not received any help from the government and only heard about the promise of getting Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 in their bank accounts.
Rahul Gandhi again asked them that do they think it was their fault as they were doing their job, to this, one of the migrant worker replied, "Government said that you cannot work and tied our hands."
The migrant workers also alleged that in Haryana, along with the police the local people who wielded sticks used to target the migrant workers who would come out of their homes. One migrant worker said, "Till the time we were working we were valued. And as the work stopped, we were left with nothing."
One of the migrant woman told Congress leader to arrange for her return as she said she does not want to go back to Haryana.
"We don't want to go back to Haryana, please arrange for our return to our homes, we will die at home, but would not go back," she said.
The documentary shared by the Congress provided a glimpse into the immense suffering of the migrant workers due to the nationwide lockdown enforced to break the chain of COVID-19 pandemic.
After his interaction, the former Congress President urged the government to make direct cash transfer of Rs 7,500 into the bank accounts of the workers. Rahul Gandhi had made arrangements for the safe return of the group of the migrant workers to their native places.