Name: Ajay Sharma
Hometown: Jogapatti, Bihar
Returned from: Jammu
Ajay Sharma reached Jammu 25 days before the announcement of the lockdown. He worked as a carpenter, and the curfew barred his only source of income. For the next few days, the contractor provided money for sustenance. It was two months later he left for Bihar with others from the neighbourhood.
Interviewer: What did you experience in your initial days of the lockdown? Share the details of your journey back to Bihar.
Ajay Sharma: I am 39 years old now and have worked for the past eighteen years of my life with a contractor. I reached Jammu almost a month before the lockdown’s announcement. Prior to leaving Bihar, I worked here and there earning in Rs. 4,000 or so, however, in Jammu, my income ranged from Rs. 10,000 to 15,000 every month with an expenditure of Rs. 4,000.
I learned about the Covid-19 virus on the 26th of March through my phone and television news. The company I worked for shut down and the contractor did not return after Holi. I was stranded with two of my brothers and two strangers; we asked the contractor for money to purchase food in addition to the neighbours contributing the food when they can. The contractor would send Rs. 2,000 or Rs. 4,000 for two months we waited there.
The forty of us, from Bihar, rented a bus for Rs 3,000 per person. At first, the policemen did not allow us to pass, and so, we took a different route to reach the bus. The journey lasted 50 hours as we were stopping on the way for food and water. We first arrived at the Jammu border, got necessary permits from the Jammu border force and drove till Punjab. There we rested for food and water, further drove till Uttar Pradesh. While there was free food made available to us in Punjab and throughout Uttar Pradesh, it was after reaching Bihar we went hungry. The bus dropped me in Bahrauli, Bihar, about 8k.m. away from the village. The three of us rented a private vehicle till home. There, we were checked and sent home.
Interviewer: How do you plan on adjusting to the pandemic?
Ajay Sharma: I cannot think of the future right now as I am trying to protect myself from the disease. If the threat reduces, I will consider returning.