Sounds of bullets, empty pockets: Airlifted from J&K, migrants recall lockdown horror.. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, June 13 : Even as the lockdown imposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic eases and the country returns to normal routine, there are many who still await to be home, dealing with the aftermath of a grim economic fallout.

Migrant workers stranded in various parts of the country are one such lot. IANS met some of them who were stuck for nearly three months in the Kashmir Valley since the restrictions on movement was imposed.

It was not until a video on social media highlighting their plight went viral then social activist Yogita Bhayana conducted a mini airlift operation to rescue 82 of them.

Recalling the challenges in paradise, Mohd. Saddam, a resident of Bihar, said: "It was very problematic and a tense situation. We were stuck in Kashmir since Day one of the lockdown.

"We came to the valley few months before the lockdown. Our surroundings were beautiful but disturbing. There was this constant noise of bullets being fired and bombs exploding.

"Surviving it, seemed extremely difficult as sometimes we got food only once a day and on somedays not even once." The group had gone to Jammu and Kashmir in search of jobs. Most of their savings were over before long. Soon they found it hard even to manage the essentials.

Another daily wager, Mohd Marboob said: "We were stuck in Srinagar for three months without any facility to earn our daily bread, literally. Nobody was there to help us. Neither the government nor the locals.

"It was a miracle we somehow got in touch with Yogita didi. She comforted us and promised to send us back to our native places. All of us are really happy for once in a very longtime as it feels like we will definitely now be home among our loved ones.

"Apart from lockdown, there is a lot of issues in Kashmir, be it curfew or protest. Neither any shop was open nor there were available rations. Living was the toughest thing to do. Despite having no job or money, we were somehow managing to live and not die on each other." While the government has announced various economic packages to support the losses incurred due the pandemic, the situation on the ground remains grim and scary leaving many still unemployed and struggling.

"Our families helped us with at most Rs 500 to 1,000. But even they're not that rich to help us throughout this situation. We are daily wage workers. We don't earn that much to survive for this long," Marboob told IANS.

When the flight landed in Delhi's Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport, the social activist along with her team welcomed these migrants and gave them 'gamcha' (towel), sanitizers and masks.

They will now be sent to their homes.

Speaking to IANS, Bhayana said: "Since the Day 1 of lockdown when we got to know about migrant workers, we've been working on sending them back. We were doing it by using buses but this time we've airlifted because it was Srinagar and it was like very interior places and because of this no bus and train facilities working there.

"From Delhi, we have made the bus arrangement. So that they can directly go from the airport to their native places in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh." Recently, the Delhi High Court made a stern observation of the current situation and said that the Lockdown caused more suffering than the COVID-19 pandemic itself.

"Scores of people were forced to walk considerable distance during the lockdown and stand in long queues at food distribution centres just to have two square meals a day. Several have gone hungry and were not able to get one meal," the court said on Thursday.

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