Migrants has returned from his UP village to Dharavi
MUMBAI: After the lockdown was imposed to manage the coronavirus pandemic, migrants from cities across were seen walking home hundreds of kilometres to their villages. Despite that arduous journey, they have been returning to Mumbai through July as earning opportunities have dried up back home.
However, the return is still slow. More are expected after the Bakri Eid festival and several say they want to return only after they are sure they will get work in Mumbai.
Mumtaz Ali (32) returned to his scrap shop in Dharavi after spending over two months in his village at Uttar Pradesh. In May, he had left with his family in a tempo after paying Rs 3,000 each. The journey had taken them three days.
Ali thought that he would return to Mumbai only after the pandemic waned, but the lack of resources forced him to change his mind. There was not much work at his village in UP’s Siddharthnagar district. To make things worse, the monsoon brought floods. “I decided to return after hearing that businesses are slowly starting in the city. I need to earn for the survival of my family,” he said.
Nasim Akhtar, who worked in a small garment unit at Dharavi, also returned from his village in Bareli district of UP as work dried up. “Now I am earning enough to support myself, but am not getting the amount of work I was before the lockdown,” said Akhtar.
“All my 12 workers are in their villages and keep asking if they can return. But I am avoiding it, as there is no much demand for our products as they are sold by roadside hawkers,” said small garment factory owner, Nasir Ansari. “Once the city will open further, the demand will increase. Currently, people are spending only on their essentials.”
Ansari said it will take time for Dharavi’s many cottage industries to return to their earlier strength. “Earlier, in any lane you entered, you could hear the sounds of machines all the time. With the lack of demand, that is missing.”
The slum near Bandra station had witnessed one of the biggest protests during the lockdown in April when thousands of migrants walked on the road, demanding trains and buses to return home. After a month, most of these migrants managed to take the Shramik special trains to their home states.
However, the slum is witnessing the return of migrants, most of whom are construction labourers. “Just few of them are returning back but after Eid more will return as slowly activities are starting in the city” said a local social worker. He added that construction labourers, mainly from West Bengal, are enquiring if jobs are available at any site before deciding to return.
(This is the first part of a series on migrants returning to Mumai)