Meena is 35 , mother of 5 children . She moved to lucknow eight years back .Now works as a house maid ,hoping that her children will have better life to what she had . She earns enough to rent a small room and feed them . Her story starts from a small village near Bahriach district, Uttar Pradesh . Under paid jobs and problems like no electricity , no roads, scarcity of clean water ,lack of proper sanitization, health & education amenities pushed her to urban jungle .
Anita’s story is no different , who came to city twenty two years back . She is Meena’s neighbor. Unlike Meena she had to live in thatched huts for many years , but now lives in a similar pigeon sized room. Anita had similar reasons to flee her village, now her daughter works as a maid . She is happy as she feels that villages will never have a life.
Meena’s husband works as a construction labour while Anita’s husband is a grocer . During lockdown both considered moving back .
While Anita’s children refused the idea on the grounds of unavailability of good shops, TV and recharge facility. Meena still went back . After two months, each of her acquaintances started returning to the city . Resisting city life was difficult. Assurance to get back the room and job became their motivation.
City life has always attracted people who stay in village . No matter if they have a poor quality accommodation and daily conflicts for the same amenities , each year many of them abandon their village . Their living conditions were pitiful and would continue to be , lockdown just surfaced their plight.
Although with recent government program villages now have roads and better transportation, improved basic health and education however most of them still want to stay in city. Meena’s version of government school is of just tick in the box . As the teachers intentionally do not teach .This practice increases school drop outs . The vision that government has to ensure education for all is being failed by the government employees.
While government has done a commendable job of reaching out to people , government jobs are still seen as a mere financial security. Employees in basic setup believe in managing a setup to avoid work. Self morality is slowly disappearing. No government can police people all the time. It’s the people who have to believe the idea, the way it is structured.
Migration is not new and with the accumulation of resources it has increased. Migrant workers always existed , under a bridge or in a slum near a residential colony or near a construction site . Their capacity to work for long hours by physically exerting themselves is their reason to survive .
Compromising on the living conditions ,what kept them going was the money . Each has a different mindset for it . some earn and spend same day , others save and few others are in never ending loop of paying back . Most of migrant workers are given loan by richer people of same village . Payback system of these loans adds to their existing financial problems . This pressure adds to their reasons , for working in Urban jungle.
For fragile minds like them , lockdown poured a lot of uncertainities . So they chose to return .....
Their return wasn’t rewarding . They travelled miles and miles to reach their hometown , which still has no work. After an endless conflict they made the difficult choice to return .
Yes , most of them have come back .
While their reason to return is similar to their initial reason of abandoning their village , we too need them as much as they need us …..
Amid all of this , the most interesting part is their spirit for life . No corona virus could scare them enough not to travel , nor does it stop them from work . They continue to live life as they lived, enjoy each evening the way they want . Who knows what shall happen to them , for now they are living for fullest .
pic courtesy : Shuvo Bhattacharyya