Auraiya/Etawah: It had been barely six months since Ankush Chauhan and five of his friends from Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar had left home to work at a furniture shop in Bharatpur, Rajasthan.
At 2 am Sunday, 23-year-old Ankush travelled home with the body of his friend Arvind Chauhan, who lost his life in the truck collision at Auraiya Saturday.
“Never thought we would have to go back home like this,” a teary-eyed Ankush told ThePrint.
Rendered jobless and without money after the lockdown, Ankush and his friends Dilip Chauhan, Rikesh Chauhan, Arjun Chauhan and Arvind were on their way home from Bharatpur to Kushinagar — a distance of 700 km — when the truck they were travelling in collided with another truck.
The cement-laden truck in which they were travelling carried about 45 people while there were 22 others in the other vehicle, a DCM truck (vehicles used for transportation).
In all, 26 migrant workers were killed in the accident.
“It was late at night and all of us were sleeping. Four of us were sitting at the rear end of the truck while one of our friends was in the middle. We were woken up by the collision. Arvind died on the spot,” Ankush said.
Kamlesh Kumar Dixit, Additional Superintendent of Police, Auraiya, told ThePrint that those with minor injuries have been put up at a guest house in the district. The rest, 32 of them, were taken to the Saifai Medical College in Etawah for treatment.
At Saifai Medical Hospital, all injured migrant workers were being treated and also screened for Covid-19.
‘Couldn’t get bus or train tickets’
Ankush and his friends had left Kushinagar in November 2019. All of them worked and stayed at the furniture shop in Bharatpur where they worked. Depending on how the business was, Ankush said, the men would earn anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 a month.
“If it was good month, we would earn as much as Rs 25,000 also,” he added.
From the money he earned, Ankush would send a substantial amount each month to his family of 11 members. But there had been no money to send home for the past two months since the lockdown.
“You know what our value is. Though we were getting food and water at the factory, how long could all of us go without any work or money? We were also not sending any money back home,” said Ankush.
He also said they had tried getting bus and train tickets but failed to managed any. “Only when we couldn’t get either a bus or train ticket, did we decide to go by a truck.”
While Ankush, Dilip, Rikesh and Arvind were headed to Kushinagar, Arjun was headed to Chitraiya in Uttar Pradesh.
The DCM truck
ThePrint also met three people who were in the DCM truck that was coming from Delhi and were admitted to the Saifai Medical Hospital. They had boarded the truck at Ghaziabad and were headed to Sagar district in Madhya Pradesh.
Bhim Singh and Roshan are daily wage labourers who were employed in Ghaziabad. Both men said they left the city because they had no food, money or work for the past two months.
“We were just about surviving for the past two months. How much longer could we go on like this? We have got no help from anybody in the government,” said Singh.
Roshan, 20, who was walking with a limp, said, “We have been here since 2 pm Sunday and not eaten anything. I just want to go home now.”
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