Mohammad Ansari, one of the 1,200 workers brought back to Jharkand from Telengana on a special train on May 1, recounted his journey.
"It was midnight of April 30. I was in a room with 11 other migrant workers, when we heard a knock on our door. A few administrative officers, standing outside the door, wearing protective masks, asked everyone to pack their bags. Instead of feeling relieved, we were apprehensive about what will happen next.
Just two days earlier, I along with other migrant workers working in a construction site at IIT-Hyderabad, had an argument with the project manager. The manager asked us to resume work saying he had acquired permission from the respective authorities. When we resisted, because we were not sure with whom we would have been assigned, he threatened to stop our ration. A big fight followed between us and the management. Local police of Kandi arrived at the scene and lathicharged. Some of us responded by pelting stones at police officials.
We finally agreed to their terms but demanded payment of arrears of our wages.
Fearing that we might be shifted to a new location because of the conflict, we asked the officials at our door the reason for their visit. One of the officers said, "We have got the permit and you are being sent home."
We quickly gathered our belongings, put on clothes and got ready to leave. There were buses lined up outside our colony.
As the bus moved, I, adjusting my face mask that I received while boarding the bus, took a long look at the camp which had been my home for the past five months.
We reached IIT-Hyderabad where other migrant workers from other companies also boarded the bus. From there, the workers were taken to the Lingampalli railway station in the wee hours after our Aadhar and other ID cards were vetted. After many social distancing and thermal scanning drills at the railway station, I settled down and saw the town go past.
As we were asked to maintain distance, the passenger who was given seat beside me didn't come down from his upper berth. We received food twice on the train and the quantity was enough. Though there was no housekeeper, the washrooms were clean. The train stopped for food collection, first at Balharshah and then at Bilaspur, the only places where doors were opened. We got down, picked our packets and came back to our seats.
After getting down at Hatia railway station, we had to again line up to sanitize our hands, get screened and take food. Then we marched to the buses that took us to our respective districts. Since I live in Palamu district, I came to Daltonganj where officials did a health check. Then I was sent home by a bus to self isolate. I didn't have to pay for anything (food, water, or ticket) in the entire journey.
My family received me warmly. Children's excitement lifted my spirit but I have weight of their responsibility on my mind. I would happily lend some hand to my father and brother in cultivation. However, I don't wish to ferment in farms. If I get any call for a job after the lockdown is lifted, I will definitely go.’’