Fifteen-year-old, Jyoti Kumari, cycles 745 miles home with disabled father on bike as India’s national lockdown measures ban all “non essential” travel.
As with millions of other newly unemployed migrant workers, Jyoti and her father found themselves with no income amongst the coronavirus lockdown. With rent still needing to be paid, the two were left no choice but to make the desperate journey from New Delhi to Bihar. Jyoti explained, “I had no other option. We wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t cycled to my village.”
Kumari pedalled for 10 days straight with her father on the back of the bike. Their only means of survival was food and water given to them through the kindness of strangers. Upon arrival to their village, both were put in quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.
Jyoti Kumari’s story is one of thousands of poor people who have been forced to return home by foot. With the elderly carried on their backs and children wheeled on luggages, many are fighting to survive. Dozens of people have died on the way, struck by trains or trucks, from hunger or suicide.
Jyoti Kumari’s efforts to get home have been praised internationally, most notably by Ivanka Trump. However, this praise has been received with shame by many in India. This is not a “beautiful feat”, but a grotesque romanticisation of a major humanitarian crisis.