When Deepak and Chandan began working in Hazira, they knew they had to make the best of a bad bargain. But nothing had prepared them for the trauma they suffered during the lockdown.
Hum log garib aadmi hai, kamake khane wala aadmi hai… humko dekhne wala bhagwan hi hai (We are poor people, we live hand-to-mouth. For us, there is only God). Deepak* told me this in a voice which sounded much older than his 20-something years.
He had learnt this truth the hard way in Hazira, a bustling hub of the Gujarat economy, where industrial campuses stretch out in a line towards the Arabian Sea. He had laboured in an oil refinery manufacturing unit, earning Rs 400 per day, sending the bulk of his earnings to his family in Bihar. When the lockdown was imposed, he was among the 50,000-plus workers stranded in Hazira.