"Coronavirus Better Than Hunger," Say UP Migrant Workers Going Back To Work

Several of Uttar Pradesh's 30 lakh-plus migrant workers who returned during the lockdown are going back to work.

Some of the migrants from UP say they're willing to take the risk of returning to work.

Lucknow:

As India continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and flagging economic growth, some of Uttar Pradesh's 30 lakh-plus migrant workers who returned during the lockdown are going back to work.

At the government bus stand in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Deoria, 50 km from the railway junction in Gorakhpur that has trains to Maharashtra, Gujarat and elsewhere, Diwakar Prasad and Khursheed Ansari are both boarding buses for Gorakhpur.

Mr Ansari is a factory worker in Mumbai and says his large tailoring unit is still shut and that he returned home just a month ago.

"If there was employment in UP, I would not return . My company has not started yet but I am returning to find whatever work I can. Corona is better than hunger. It is better for me to die rather than my children to die of coronavirus," Mr Ansari told NDTV before boarding the bus.

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Over 30 lakh migrant workers had returned to UP during the lockdown.

Mr Prasad, a technician in a Kolkata firm, had come home for Holi but got stuck in UP due to the lockdown. His firm has reopened and he says he is returning to Kolkata to help his family of five children and his wife. "I am scared but I am also scared to live here. How will I eat and feed my family?" said Mr Prasad.

Diwakar Prasad , Khursheed Ansari and others in eastern Uttar Pradesh are looking to go back despite the state government promising work in the state itself. On Saturday, the government claimed an all-time record in the number of people working under MNREGA  in Uttar Pradesh and also said employment for 60 lakh people was being generated in small industries.

In Siddharth Nagar, a remote and backward east UP district that has seen the maximum number of returning migrant workers, Mohammed Abid, an AC technician in his late 20s says he is returning to Mumbai because government schemes and promises have not reached him. "There is good money in Mumbai but I will not be able to manage here (in Uttar Pradesh). Even if schemes are  being taken out, they are not reaching us. It is like being unemployed. There is no work here. You go to anyone and they say there is no work, " Mr Abid said.

At the railway station in Ballia, also in eastern Uttar Pradesh and on the border with Bihar, Rajesh Kumar Verma, who spent three months at home, is now headed back to Ahmedabad to his grocery shop he runs on rent.

"The government is giving ration but there are other expenses and there is no work here except under MNREGA. I have a shop there (in Ahmedabad) and a room on rent.The rent is accumulating and if I do not return, how will I pay that?" Mr Verma said.

While lakhs of migrant workers continue to remain in Uttar Pradesh because of the pandemic, some now say they are willing to take the risk of returning to work.