May saw a massive migrant exodus from Mumbai amid the coronavirus crisis. One such area which is about 90 per cent full of migrants is Mumbai's Bhayyawadi in Juhu Koliwada, which saw nearly 80 per cent of its residents leave in May when the coronavirus lockdown was in full effect.
Empty lanes and eerie silence filled this neighbourhood back then. But the hustle bustle seems to fill in the neighbourhood for the last one-and-a-half-month. Only that the life has not returned to normal yet for the migrants here.
Pankaj, a resident of Bihar, was lucky enough to board a truck and reach his village when the nationwide lockdown happened. He was a cook in Mumbai and was earning around Rs 17,000 a month.
However, floods in Bihar were a double whammy for him with farmland and his house washed away. He returned to Mumbai, and is now forced to work at a construction site.
"My earlier boss refused to give me work because of coronavirus. Even the salary was less. So now I'm working at a construction site," says Pankaj.
Many others like Pankaj have a similar story to tell. Kailash Mandal, a resident of Darbhanga in Bihar, is struggling to make ends meet. He is the only earner for a family of five. Working as a driver, he would earn Rs 18,000 a month, but now he says work has reduced by almost half, which means his earnings are also down by 50 per cent.
"I thought of doing something in my village. But what can I do there? The system is not in place properly. So had to come back. Yes, I am scared of coronavirus, but now have to struggle for money," says Mandal.
Krishna, a construction worker, says staying back in his village for long was not an option due to the bleak economic condition. And he came back too. "I couldn't have stayed in the village. There is no work and even if we get work, pay is meagre. Here at least I can earn Rs 600-700 per day. But in the village the pay is merely Rs 200," he says.
With people coming back, finding employment opportunities is a big task for them.
Amit Singh, a social worker who works with migrants and ensure they get food and ration everyday, says in the last two months people have started coming back in the hope of getting work. "About 35-40% people have come back but they are struggling for work," says Mr Singh.