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‘They treat us like stray dogs’: Migrant workers flee India’s cities – By Nilanjana Bhowmick

Since the end of March, when the government closed borders and halted public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have left cities despite fears that they’d encounter the police, run out of food or water, or succumb to the searing heat. “It was a very practical strategy to walk home,” said Benoy Peter, executive director of the Kerala-based Center for Migration and Inclusive Development. “They needed to go home because it means a roof over their heads, food, and the comfort of a community.”

But conditions on the journey home are often unsafe. Every day brings reports of migrant workers dying on the road. On May 8, 19 people were run over by a freight train; observers said they were so exhausted from walking that they had slept on the tracks and did not hear the train whistle. Just over a week later in Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh, two trucks carrying migrant workers had collided, killing 27.

Faced with migrants thronging bus stations and crowded quarantine centers, the government started transporting workers home on special trains on May 1… Textile worker Krishna Mohan Kumar said he paid $11 – more than a day’s salary – to return from Kolhapur in Maharashtra to Patna via a government train. But during that journey, workers were left to scramble for food and find their own water, Mohan said. … “The rural crisis has not yet unfolded,” Peter said. “It is due in the next few weeks, and it might be catastrophic.”

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