It’s like adding salt to their green wounds!

Even as the hapless migrant labourers have been reaching their home state after facing the difficulties that can’t be explained in words, what is worse is that they are being branded as “Corona spreaders” and treated with contempt. The change in people’s perception is threatening to cause a social conflict in the state as the very slogan of “Social Distancing” appears to be virtually turning into “Social Discrimination”.

A group of 21 labourers that reached Patna from Delhi after walking constantly for 13 days on foot suffered a severe emotional setback when the local residents addressed them as “Corona-waale” and teased them by saying, “Dekho, Corona-waale aa gaye (See, the corona-spreaders have come),” told a few labourers as to how some local residents addressed them when they reached Patna on Saturday.

They said the people in their own state are treating them like untouchables. “We don’t know why people are treating us this way? They drove us away when we stopped outside their homes to take some rest. Many didn’t allow us to take water from their hand pumps,” said Uday Kumar. He said if they were alive that was because some people felt pity on their condition and handed them food and water on the way home.

“Sir, you people will have to change your mentality. We are not Corona-spreaders. Even if we have Corona, we will get treatment at the hospital. Not all are dying from Corona. Moreover, everyone has to die one day then why this panic?” asked Mansoor Ahmed, another migrant labourer.

A pregnant woman Rekha Devi, 28, who travelled some 900 km on foot to reach her home state faced more shocking treatment when the doctors refused to admit her to the hospital after she went into labour pain. She, along with her husband and three children, was about to reach Gopalganj near the UP-Bihar border when her labour pain started.

Her husband somehow rushed her to the Sadar Hospital in Gopalganj but the doctors refused to admit her fearing she could be infected with Coronavirus. The woman continued crying for help but the doctors and other hospital staff remained unmoved. Her ordeal continued for over an hour until her husband contacted the district magistrate who ordered the hospital authorities to start her immediate treatment. Subsequently, she delivered a baby girl.

They are not the lone exceptions. Even the general villagers have put up barricades in many villages and have banned their entry while the treatment being meted out to them at most of the quarantine centres is also not good. Close to three lakh migrant labourers have been put up at 5,765 quarantine centres being run across the state.

The returning migrants are apparently being treated with disdain as a total of 423 migrants have been found infected with Coronavirus since 3 May—the day when they started reaching here in large numbers following the start of labour special trains.

Of the total 423 migrants having Covid-19, the maximum of 136 had come from Delhi, 111 from Gujarat, 85 from Maharashtra, 23 each from West Bengal and Haryana, 18 from UP and others. According to an official report, about 10 lakh more labourers have returned to Bihar in the past fortnight.