Name: Tijabul Ansari
Hometown: Awharshekh, Bihar
Returned From: Katra, Jammu & Kashmir
Tijabul Ansari was stranded in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir for almost a month without being able to purchase ration or earn any income. With his family worrying at home, he submitted the necessary forms, and attempted to leave but was refused thrice by the authorities present at the railway station. A contractor in Jammu reserved Tijabul a bus ride back to Bihar.
Interviewer: How were your days in Katra? Why did you choose to come back? Share the details of your journey.
Tijabul Ansari: I worked as a tailor in a boutique. I have three brothers, our parents, my wife, and two sons. In Katra, I earned Rs. 12,000 a month and sent home Rs. 9,000 or more, depending on the situation.
On the 18th of March, I first heard of the Coronavirus, but I did not care at the time. It was on the 22nd of March the lockdown was implemented and I acknowledged the virus. I spent my next few days indoors doing nothing. The owner of the boutique, she suggested I register for ration. I provided the staff at the ration shop with my information, waited in the queue, and yet was refused twice. My employer covered the rent and food for the time I was there.
Since there was no work, no food, and constant worry from my family, I registered for the train-tickets. There was no response at first, however, the second registration process was approved. I reached the station on the 17th and was met with disappointment. I was told to try the train the following day at 6 p.m. The roadblocks increased our duration of travel to and from the station. The third day we entered the station, there was no information being shared; no one responded to me.
That evening, I borrowed money from my employer and reserved a seat on a bus from Jammu to Bihar. I walked 30k.m. to the bus-stop and waited till 10 p.m. for the bus to arrive. The journey lasted three days. There was no food on the bus, we would have to purchase with our money. I had Rs. 150 left. One meal was provided in Katra before departure, I bought chips and water in Punjab, another proper meal with water near Lucknow, followed by a banana and some water for the road. I reached home on the 23rd of May.
I was dropped at the quarantine centre in Bettiah, Bihar. After getting checked, I was instructed to quarantine at home for fourteen days. The food was provided by my family thrice a day despite their struggle of procuring it for themselves.
Interviewer: How has the pandemic affected your lifestyle?
Tijabul Ansari: I was happy to see my family after the quarantine, nevertheless, I was concerned for the future.
My brothers and I were the primary earners of the family. The two did labour work and one helped at home when needed. We have exhausted all our savings, we do not own land just the house, and there are no jobs available. I will not leave until my employer explicitly affirms my safety. The pandemic is still around, there is no cure. Why would I intentionally risk my life? I’d rather continue surviving on dry bread or salt at home. We do not have second expenses anymore; all our earnings are spent on food.
The schemes by the government are not going to reach all. I tried applying for numerous schemes; I await the benefits.