A ray of hope for the immigrants
Kesab Balayar, from Nepal, was working at a bar in Mylapore when the lockdown was announced. But he has been very busy since the prospect of going back home was opened for the migrants. He is among the few at the forefront of working with the government to send many migrants and immigrants home. The plight of migrants, including those from his country, in a pitiable condition, affected him. “People were on the streets. They did not have a place to go. They hardly got food once a day,” explains Kesab.
Many of the Nepalis work in Chennai as watchmen, cooks, and in the hospitality industry. As the hospitality industry has been shut due to the lockdown, many of them have been left to fend for themselves. While the whole country sympathised with the large population of migrants, there hardly has been any for the immigrants - mainly from Nepal.
“Many of us do not even have any identity documents like Aadhar cards. So it is difficult for many to fill in the e-pass document. We are thus working with the government about it,” says Kesab.
Kesab has helped not only his countrymen but also migrants from Bihar fill the e-pass form for them to go home. Once the form is filled, it has taken up to 2 weeks for transport to be arranged. Based on the location of the applicants, buses are arranged from various points in the city. One such bus picked up immigrants from Adyar Depot on May 25. The buses are point to point and from the pickup point, they drop the immigrants to the borders, from where the Nepal government takes over.
Till May 28, 20 buses had been arranged to carry 30 passengers each. This figure however is nowhere close to the actual number of stranded immigrants. “We are also helping many from Bihar to go home. Even they are in the buses,” says Kesab.
It takes 3 whole days for the immigrants to reach the border from Chennai. They have to make their own arrangement for food and water for a considerable distance while also paying for their seat. “Even I had to go back home. My family is also enquiring and worried about me. However, since so many of my countrymen are stuck here, I am helping them here and will go later,” tells Kesab.
Kesab can be reached at 73582 65820.
A long journey back home
Bhim Sing, a Nepali, was working in the hospitality sector in Chennai when the Pandemic struck. With hotels closed, and no hopes of finding a new job, there was no purpose in living in the city.
Kesab helped him register with the government and in a fortnight he was on the bus back home. He boarded the non-stop bus at Adyar bus depot bus stop with just a backpack - his only belongings during his stay here. A seat on the bus cost him Rs.8000.
The bus departed from the stop after about a 5-hour delay. Once started, the bus whizzed through the empty National Highways and bypasses and stopped only for lunch and dinner. Much before arriving at a hotel, the driver called and informed the hotel about the estimated time of arrival and the number of passengers. As the bus pulled into the hotel, food was all ready and they were served immediately. This saved the time spent and physical contact at all locations.
Bhim Sing reached the border on Thursday night and was immediately taken to a quarantine center there. Though it was an arduous journey, the prospect of seeing loved ones and a home sweet home, has endured them through.