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A long way home

Shome Basu | Updated on April 03, 2020 Published on April 02, 2020

As residents stay indoors and migrants leave for their home towns, Delhi looks like a ghost town

A 21-day lockdown imposed by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 left the financially poor and marginalised in a state of despair across the country. Migrant workers in cities such as Delhi, where lakhs gather for work, were the most affected.

Unprepared for the shutdown and with no avenues of income or societal support, they were left stranded.

These images are from the first week of the national lockdown. Delhi looked like a ghost town within hours of the unprecedented shutdown that started on March 25. Only police personnel were present at certain places to ensure citizens remained behind doors. In many places, the poor could be seen roaming around in search of food.

Even as state borders closed down, daily wagers began marching on foot in large numbers, hoping to reach their home states.

A common reason for this mass reverse-migration was uncertainty about the future and the desire to be back in familiar surroundings in difficult times. Stranded without cash and any means of transport, they had little choice but to make the arduous journey by foot to their villages in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.

Even the fear of the police didn’t stop them. Many wanted the government to help them tide over the crisis. The heat took a toll on families carrying little water and food. There have been reports of deaths due to accidents and exhaustion.

Shome Basu is a Delhi-based photojournalist

Published on April 02, 2020