Migrants on film

Photographed in 2020

The pandemic brought the bustling city to a standstill. The busy streets wore a deserted look, the age-old markets shut and the skywalk looked skeletal during the nationwide lockdown. And then came the mass migration of people as they scuffled to return to their adobe.

A 21-day lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in India left thousands of migrant labourers who work as daily wagers with no income, making their survival in a city a tall task.

As a result, thousands of stranded migrants across India hit the roads on foot to reach their homes miles away. The exodus of migrants from states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala drew the attention of authorities and organisations.

While some labourers were killed as they were walking back to their homes, some were detained amidst the lockdown, and some were provided shelter in hostels and NGOs.

Glimpses of the situation in Bengaluru shot on Yashica Electro 35 film camera on Ilford 400; black and white roll from March-May 2020.

Migrant workers are seen walking on the outskirts of Bengaluru to reach their native place in Uttar Pradesh.
A family on a footpath waiting with hope to board a special train to Chhattisgarh from Bengaluru. Several migrant families spend the night on the footpath waiting to catch the train.
Migrant workers sit on swear pipes with their bags after the police chased them away from the railway station in Bengaluru.
Migrant workers try to get their hands on a bottle of water flunked at them by volunteers as they wait to catch the special train to return to their hometown.
Tension prevailed at Palace Grounds in Bengaluru as nearly 7,000 migrant workers from the north and northeastern states, desperate to return home gathered there from the morning. While the capacity of each train is 1,500, as determined by the central government guidelines, the workers gathered at the grounds were almost triple that number.
Women and children desperately wait for their turn to board a bus heading to their hometown from Bengaluru. Chaos reigned at the Kempegowda Bus Station in Majestic even after the government rolled back its decision to charge over 300% of the regular fare from migrant workers returning to their hometowns.
Thousands of people were stranded as the KSRTC cut down operations at night. For more than 2,000 people, most of them migrant workers, who rushed to Majestic to catch a bus home, the news that they have to pay three times the normal fare came as a rude shock.
People walking with small luggage on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway in an attempt to reach their homes hundreds of kilometres away. ⠀
Early morning sense at Palace Grounds in Bengaluru as migrant workers from Chhattisgarh wait to return to their natives during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.⠀
Viral messages drive 7,000 to Palace Grounds in Bengaluru.

They lined the highway under the unrelenting heat. With their belongings in backpacks, rucksacks or cloth bundles, they clutched water bottles and walked hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes.

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