Migrants’ misery reveals contrasting responses

Shivpuri (MP), May 18 (IANS) This is the tale of stark contrasts in human behaviour. One part shows how a friend put his life at risk to save another. The other shows how governments are looking the other way while truck operators make a killing out of the migrant workers’ misery.
Having failed to save his friend Amrit Kumar, Mohammad Saiyub awaited a verdict on his health status in an isolation ward on Sunday as the doctors also prayed he tested negative for the dreaded virus. They were touched by the strong bond between the friends. Till the reports arrive, doctors and staff who treated Amrit have been quarantined. Shivpuri Chief Medical Officer Dr A L Sharma said samples were taken because Amrit and his friend had arrived from a red zone.
The family members of Amrit who had reached here on Saturday after learning of his death were allowed to take possession of the body after testing negative for coronavirus.
Amrit Kumar had a fever when he along with Saiyub and other migrant workers boarded a truck at Surat early on Thursday. The two friends, both 23, from Devri village in Basti district in Uttar Pradesh, worked in different textile units but shared a room.
Amrit had taken paracetamol tablets but it did not help much. The journey for which the two had to shell out Rs 8,000 to travel cattle class in a fully loaded truck with more than 40 others was going to be treacherous in the hostile sun. When the vehicle reached Kolaras in Madhya Pradesh on Friday, Amrit’s health deteriorated.
The truck crew, who had already charged over Rs 1,60,000 from the passengers, refused to break journey midway to help Amrit get medical assistance. Neither workers nor the truck driver wanted to wait. The others insisted that Amrit be offloaded as he could be a risk to the others.
“I wanted him to get better so that we could reach home safely. Our parents were waiting for us. I will stay with him till he is cured,” Saiyub said. Having forced Amrit to get off, the driver asked Saiyub to hand him his luggage and stay aboard. “How could I leave him in such condition,” Saiyub said he realized the gravity of the situation and tried to speak to Amrit who was too weak to make sense through some sounds.
Local journalist Samuel Das, who had helped the two friends, said Amrit’s father was handicapped. Saiyub said, being the sole breadwinner, Amrit was always tense. He earned around Rs 10,000 and had to send enough money to support his five siblings and parents.
Saiyub had asked the driver to pay some money back as they were being dropped midway and needed some money for Amrit’s treatment. But he refused to pay.
As Amrit continued to sink, Saiyub sat cradling his friend by the roadside. Some bystanders clicked an image that went viral on social media. A half-empty water bottle and a red backpack lay next to the two friends. When an ambulance arrived a few minutes later, another image showed Saiyub hurrying to move his friend inside. Saiyub kept sponging his friend’s forehead with a kerchief till the ambulance arrived.
The doctors who untiringly tried to save Amrit had to give up on Friday night. Amrit’s lungs were clear but he had severe dehydration. He was shifted to ICU and was kept on a ventilator but he died around midnight.
Amrit was taken to the community health centre in Kolaras where Dr Vivek Sharma tried to revive him. “His sugar was low. I gave him ORS. His temperature was high. I thought it was a case of heat stroke. He had febrile convulsions,'” said Dr Sharma, who took Saiyub for Amrit’s brother because he was constantly touching his friend. “Even ward boys are scared to touch patients these days. They had to be pushed to do so.”

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