Migrants seated in a bus in Kalahandi for Kerala on January 15, 2021. Photo Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation/ Manjary S

HeroesSociety India19. February 2021

Corona: How Buses Are Helping India’s Villagers Get Back on Their Feet

A young labor activist based in Kalahandi, India, has developed a service of buses for people from remote villages who have been cut off from the outside world since the corona pandemic, and who wish to resume their work in big cities.

“People have been trying to leave their villages since December but there was no connectivity. No buses. No trains. They are so desperate to find work,” says Jobin Chacko, 25, who set up the bus service. “We had 49 seats on the first bus that left last month and in no time I had 70 applications. I felt honoured I could help 49 people leave for work. They finally had the option to earn and support their families. I could see everyone smile.”

Because of restricting travel due to the pandemic and overwhelming India’s trains, the Kalahandi population has been almost entirely cut off. With work resuming in big cities, and the train services operating at 65% of their capacity and already 90% booked, ferrying people became a necessity. The 1,800 km journey the buses make to Kerala takes three days. Each bus must ride with its windows open for ventilation, and non-profit test workers who show COVID-19 symptoms on arrival.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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