Ranveer Singh was working as a delivery driver for a restaurant in the Indian capital of New Delhi when the government gave everyone just four hours’ warning that a nationwide lockdown was about to be enforced.
Singh was left with no option but to head home to his village in the Morena district, almost 200 miles away. With transportation links shut down, he set out on foot.
The 39-year-old father of three made it as far as Agra, 125 miles south of the capital, before he collapsed, and died of a heart attack brought on by exhaustion.
Singh is just one of dozens of people who have died making long journeys home after the Indian government’s decision to impose a blanket lockdown last Tuesday, forcing businesses to shutter and giving citizens no time to prepare. Millions of migrant workers in India were left without food or shelter when Narendra Modi made the announcement, and now people are dying on the journeys back home.
In Haryana, a North Indian state surrounding New Delhi, three workers and two children, heading home on foot were crushed to death by a truck. On the outskirts of the city of Hyderabad, seven migrant workers and an 18-month old baby were killed when the truck they were traveling in was hit from behind by a truck loaded with mangoes.
A group of four migrant workers who set out from the western city of Vasai for their home villages in Rajasthan was knocked down and killed after officials forced them to go back to Vasai.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers, some of them with families in tow, tried to escape New Delhi over the weekend, hoping to board the few buses that were still running to their home towns and villages. But police had to beat back many of those trying to make the long journeys.
Migrant workers have blasted the government’s decision to force people living in slums to stay at home for three weeks, claiming the measures will leave them without food. In Kerala on Saturday thousands of people defied the curfew to protest the lockdown, with many of them saying they hadn’t eaten in days.
While some states organized buses to repatriate their migrant workers, on Sunday afternoon the central government ordered states to seal their borders, ordering migrants to stay where they are.
In a rare admission for Modi, the prime minister recognized the huge pressure the lockdown is placing on his citizens, and apologized for the measures on Sunday.
“I apologize for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people,” Modi said in his monthly address, broadcast on state radio. “I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.”
Cover: Daily wage laborer from Gurugram, Vikas Patel, center right, with his wife Nidhi Patel, right, holding their children walk on foot to their respective villages following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus, on the outskirts of Prayagraj, India, Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)