Corona Cyclips LIVE updates: Some thoughts
Follow along with our intrepid reporters Sruthin Lal and Dibyayudh Das as they cycle from Delhi to UP and beyond to see for themselves the situation on the roads of India, to talk to the people who are most affected by the lockdown, and to tell us what's happening in the corners of India nobody really talks about. This LIVE blog will feature regular updates, photographs, and videos from their journey.
Migrants are walking on the roads, taking the long road home. Labourers who haven't been paid ever since the lockdown came into effect in India are desperate for work and money. People are barely making it from day to day, struggling to eat and live.
These are the stories we want to tell; these are the stories that are worth telling. Stories about real India.
So Sruthin Lal and Dibyayudh Das set out to do just that. Cycling along the dusty highways, under the heat of the summer sun, they are stopping to talk to people and give them a chance to tell their own stories. It is our privilege to report them. Please follow along with this LIVE blog for constant updates from the roads and highways and lanes and byways of India.
Now coming to the reportage, how many km have we travelled?
It's not as bad as we thought but it's tiring and there are other issues like food. We aren't able to find any restaurants that are open. We are managing with fruits.
Bananas are everywhere. It's a good harvest season. Seems like it's a banana republic!
By the way, another funny thing is that we got covered by CNN!
We spoke to people; many were sharing their stories about how they've managed the last 2 months, without any money or anything. We spoke to labourers, they are not getting paid or anything like that. None of the companies are paying even though the groundsmen urged them to pay the labourers.
Most of the people from other states, they have all gone back. We even visited a shelter where migrants were accommodated, especially those who were going back.
But they were the registered ones. They got their train reservations. They were approved by the government to travel on trains and the ones we see on the roads weren’t so lucky to get a seat on trains or buses. So people who were accommodated at that shelter were the ones who were to be transported.
We even visited a textile mill. Over there, they were saying the situation is pretty similar. The companies that we visited haven't really paid anyone over the past two months. They couldn't pay the labourers.
One said that they did pay them for one month but for the next month they couldn't because they didn’t have any demand for their products, they didn’t have any orders, and they actually went up till the global supply chain. Apparently that mill exports. So no orders are coming in. So they're just doing the maintenance stuff. Work hasn't really started yet. Production hasn't started yet.
They’re also working on finishing previous pending orders. Everybody is so concerned - labourers, management, everybody.
We met a tea shop owner. He said, "I only came back yesterday." He said, "For 2 months we've been living off our savings.” He says he's happy to be back in business but, like everyone else, he is concerned.
So now about how we started the trip yesterday: we rented 2 bikes, (quite a process). We've kind of acclimatized ourselves in the last few days. We started our journey early in the morning, at around 5 am.
The route we're taking is as follows: we will cycle from Delhi to Faridabad, Faridabad to Palwal. On Thursday night we're staying at Palwal and we're almost halfway to Palwal as we record this for posting.
By this evening (May 21st) we're supposed to reach Palwal, stay the night there and set course for UP. Today we will mostly be travelling across Haryana. We're in Haryana at the moment.
From Delhi border, we cross to Haryana and then we'll be travelling across Haryana for about nearly 90- 100 km. And after that, we cross to UP and the first stop in UP will be Mathura, by tomorrow evening.
As of today, we cross the Haryana border. Police were checking but it seemed kind of lenient. They were sending back people who were coming on foot saying that they need to wait for the buses or trains. So we saw a couple of families being turned away from the stop as well, where the checking was taking place. But we weren't stopped. We did see migrants on several occasions, carrying bags and walking. As I speak to you right now I can see some people coming. We spoke to them. We met a particular group who have been walking from Rewari over the last 3 days. We asked them why they couldn't take the trains, as the government is running so many special trains or even buses. We're going to UP and we're going to see what the bus situation is like. But so far they're saying that that method of travel requires registration and that they can’t do the registration process because they say that, "if we were so learned we wouldn't be doing labourer’s job''.
We visited some factories.
Faridabad is an industrial town. We visited 1-2 factories. In the first one the manager (a Malayali whose acquaintance I was glad to make), says that around 30% of their employees are working and they are checking people at the entrance, taking body temperature, disinfecting and so on. They're manufacturing masks.
Another thing is that the Haryana government has been kind of liberal. I saw a week ago that they've passed an order to allow the industries to function. If you look at the situation on the roads, it doesn’t feel like there’s a lockdown in place except for the fact that everyone is wearing masks.
Masks are the only visible difference between pre-COVID times and now. Everybody has masks but there are a lot of people on the roads. A lot of cars, a lot of vehicles. But there’s a sense of unease also.
So the aim of the trip is to capture the effects of lockdown on people's lives. We thought that we'd undertake this 500 km journey and understand this by talking to people on our way.
Since it's a life-altering event, the way we live, the way employment works, the way we look at livelihood, the way we talk to one another, the way we socialise, everything is going to change, and writing think pieces won't really give us an idea if we don't speak to people. The real India lives in villages; it still holds true. Real India is probably walking back home at this point.
After 3 days in this scorching sun, we can't go on after a point. How many km have we covered? 40-45 I think?
45km and we're like no, take a break. We're on cycles and these people are just walking. Masks are everywhere.