Name: Saif ul Mian
Hometown: Dhanauji, Bihar
Returned from: Jalandhar, Punjab
Saif ul Mian worked at a farm in Jalandhar for the past five years. While his earnings were not enough, they satisfied his reason to leave Bihar. The lockdown led to the work stopping abruptly, and soon he was depleting his savings. Saif heard the pandemic were to be stricter in the next three weeks, and with that information, he hastily decided to return to Bihar.
Interviewer: How has the lockdown impacted your lifestyle? Share the details of your journey to Bihar.
Saif ul Mian: I have worked in Jalandhar for the past five years now. My earnings would be Rs. 9,000 a month, with saving Rs. 4,000, and spending only on food and water as the rent was free. The income in Bihar was lesser than the expenditure. I made Rs. 100 or Rs. 200 a day and since there were no profits, I left.
I have five brothers and my parents. One of the brothers is a driver, two are younger than me but are working, and I am eighteen years old. I started working at a very young age. It was the nine of us from the village, including my brother and me, who went in search of work. Our employer was from the same village as us; however, the pandemic affected his farming and eventually impacted us.
While initially I only learned of the lockdown as the local businesses were shutting, it was on the 22nd of March I first learned of the Covid-19 virus. As farmers, not a lot affects us. We have to continue working regardless of the situation, and only then – will we be able to eat. Earlier I was working for eight hours a day, but now, there is no work; I sit and eat at our home. Eventually, the savings began to deplete, and money was sent from home. The employers were not paying either as their earnings were impacted; instead, they asked us to succumb to the situation, but we wanted to be in our homes, eating our food. We contemplated the idea of leaving for about two weeks when it was inferred to me that the lockdown would be extended for another three weeks with higher restrictions. It was then I hastily requested my family for money and rented a taxi home.
The nine of us paid Rs. 20 for each kilometre and left on the 22nd of May. There was not much struggle during the journey; food and water were provided by government camps on the way. The taxi dropped us off in Narkatiaganj, followed by a tempo ride till our block. I was checked at the centre and then told to home quarantine.
Interviewer: What challenges did you experience upon your return?
Saif ul Mian: I have been sitting at home since my return since there is no work here. I will resume work in Jalandhar once the number of cases reduces. I cannot risk my life again; I would rather wait for the virus to eradicate.