Recently, a migrant worker named Mohammad Iqbal “stole” a cycle. It was from Sahab Singh’s house in Rarah village, Bharatpur district, located in Rajasthan. Rarah is a gram-panchayat that is located between the borders of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. This incident took place late on Monday night. Mohammad Iqbal had to pedal his way along with his disabled son from Rajasthan’s Bharatpur area to his home in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. The distance he had to cover was approximately 250 kilometers. However, the migrant left behind an apology note for the cycle owner. Sahab Singh found the letter while sweeping the veranda of his house.
The note by Iqbal mentioned, “Main mazdoor hun, majboor bhi. Main aapka gunehgar hu. Aapki cycle lekar ja raha hu. Mujhe maaf kar dena. Mujhe Bareilly tak jana he. Mere pass koi sadhan nahi he aur viklang baccha hai (I am a labourer, and I am helpless. I am your culprit. I am taking your cycle. Please forgive me. I have to go to Bareilly. I have no other means to reach there and I have a specially-abled child.)
The cycle was parked outside the house. Sahab Singh, the owner of the cycle earlier wanted to file a police complaint about the theft. However, he decided against it after reading the content of the letter and had his sympathies with Iqbal.
Nevertheless, such reports are nothing new. Since the nationwide lockdown, thousands of migrant labourers suddenly found themselves jobless. With no money at hand, joblessness has forced them to begin their journey on foot or hitchhike.
These incidents reflect the plight of the labourers and the lack of effectiveness of both, the state and the central government to help them. However, one cannot say that the government is not doing anything for the people- organizing Shramik trains, special buses, instructions to the officers to provide food, water, and making other arrangements are some of the many steps taken by various governments. Unfortunately, all these arrangements have not able to reach all the targeted people. If better arrangements to ferry the migrants were in place before the lockdown, things would have been different. Nonetheless, this did not happen. Labourers are hungry and are incapable of neither to feed themselves nor their family members.
Apart from the governments, some other people to be held responsible for such a situation are the owners and the contractors. These are those people for whom these migrant labourers used to work. They have not treated them well. The labourers have not been given food nor been paid their pending wages. The situation is thus pushing them into a brink, thereby forcing them to make such a big decision, which is illegal. Generally, people move from the villages to the cities in search of work. However, for the first time, the cycle is working in the opposite direction. People are moving from cities to villages.
While we discuss the migrant labourer stealing the cycle, another story has popped up regarding the same. According to some sources, the owners of the cycle contested the claim written on the letter. The cycle belongs to Prabhudayal’s family.
“Around 4 am on Monday, we realized that my younger brother Sahab Singh’s bicycle is missing. We later found this letter by one Mohammed Iqbal that he stole the cycle to travel with his son. However, the whole message is absurd, and we do not believe in this claim. We believe that this is an insider’s job who lives in this area only. Moreover, it was an old cycle, worth not more than Rs.300, and was parked right outside the house. That is why we did not file an FIR. This message is being unnecessarily highlighted. We will surely nab the culprits who are definitely from this village only,” added Prabhudayal.
If the claims of the letter are valid, then it is another disheartening saga of the migrant labourer’s struggle during these difficult times. However, if the family’s claims are correct, then it is just another case of a story being blown out of proportion by the media. Though, there is one thing that many of us should be grateful to have such a privileged life that we have the liberty to read this story and continue scrolling our phones while thousands are struggling even to reach home.