When migrants fight for a packet of food: Migrant disaster in pics by Mahesh Bhat

Samyuktha tells me that there are few toilets for thousands of people.
When I was looking at the sea of humanity and their outstretched hands for food, I was reminded of the immediate aftermath of Tsunami in Sri lanka. I was there. Suffering seemed similar. Tsunami was a natural disaster. The current crisis could have been avoided with some better planning. We have failed our own, the poor, the brethren from the North East…

By Mahesh Bhat

I have been wanting to go out and documenting life during these times. As I live away from the city, it was not possible to do so during lock down season 1-3. Now that one can drive around during the day time, I thought of going to city centre and walk around with my camera. One of my students, Samyuktha Sunil told me about the voluntary work she was doing at Bangalore Palace Grounds. A group of students and other citizen groups were giving food and essentials workers who were going back to their states by train she said. She has been at it for over 10 days now. I thought of going there before heading out to the city centre.

However when I reached there I saw a sea of humanity, patiently waiting on the pavement. It was hot and humid. I met a group of workers from Uttar Pradesh, I saw a lot of young people from the North east. I spoke to some of them and realized that they were from Manipur. As I went ahead, I asked a policeman if they were waiting to be taken to the railway station, he answered in the affirmative and added that he didn’t know that there were so many people from the North East in Bangalore. Then there were people waiting go to Assam and Odisha. Thousands….

I went inside the premises and met Samyuktha and her friends. The workers who had registered with the government for transportation get a text message when the train is ready to transport them. They need to get to the designated point ( Bangalore Palace Grounds). From there BMTC buses transport them to the railway station. The process is naturally slow and most of them would have exhausted all their money reaching the designated spot. So they are hungry, thirsty and penniless.

Today when some of the workers reached the spot they realized that the train had been cancelled. They had absolutely no money and nowhere to go. Sunday was the ‘Janata Curfew’ on top of it. And they didn’t know what to do.

Inside the premises the situation was better. People were made to sit inside a large hangar like covered space. Food and water being provided. They were being taken to the train stations in BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) buses.

Samyuktha tells me that there are few toilets for thousands of people.
When I was looking at the sea of humanity and their outstretched hands for food, I was reminded of the immediate aftermath of Tsunami in Sri lanka. I was there. Suffering seemed similar. Tsunami was a natural disaster. The current crisis could have been avoided with some better planning. We have failed our own, the poor, the brethren from the North East…

Lock down apparently was used to make sure that the hospitals were not overwhelmed. Well, this humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed all the systems. We have advocated social/physical distancing herded people like sheep. Now hospitals too may get overwhelmed.

NOTE: I would like to place on record my appreciation of the work being done by Bangalore City Police under these trying conditions. They are patient and humane. They are making sure that the situation remains calm and as orderly as possible. They are working in trying times and we should be grateful for their service.

(Mahesh Bhat is an avid phot0grapher)

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