Ignored by fate, and ignored by the state, they walk. Walk home they do, on the highways they built — highways built as part of nation building. They walk past the infrastructure they helped build—infrastructure that makes the nation proud and feeds our collective ego.
The highways are deserted. No trucks or vehicles—just the builders of India walking back home, with their belongings on their heads and fear in the hearts. Fear, not of the unknown, but the fear of the known. Fear instilled by Saheb and his men. Fear of being sprayed by noxious chemicals upon arrival in their villages thousands of kilometers away—if they make it all the way. The fear of dropping dead due to exhaustion, like the 110 who have been noted by the authorities, 17 of them in the last 24 hours. The fear of being forgotten and unnoticed by the government.
On highways paved by Saheb’s silence, they march on. They’re used to physical labour. And they’re used to moving in lines. Saheb get’s them to do it often. The last time he claimed that if they endure a few days of hardships, he’d distribute the ill-gotten wealth of the privileged people. But it was only the poor people who had to stand in lines to withdraw their own money. Now, they walk in lines.
And all the roads they have to walk are winding. They wind around death. Death by starvation or disease; death by accidents or suicide. They die ungrieved, unnoticed. In short death by government apathy, led by a man who will take his Jhola and walk away.
Because the government refuses to take cognizance of their plight, and take them back home, they walk by the tracks. And when their bodies can take it no more, they rest on the tracks. The silence of Saheb is so loud that it drowns out the engine’s horn. On the very tracks they helped lay, they lose their lives. None to hear their wails or wipe their tears. They leave behind their souls and the blood drenched rotis and march on, hoping to reach home—if they survive.
The government has blood on its hands. Indelible stains. After all, it’s been eating the blood drenched rotis. It’s been feeding off the poor for years. Lakhs of crores have been written off for Saheb’s chums while the poor survive on rice gruel and salt—if they are lucky to survive Saheb’s experiments and big bang ideas. Only recently he announced a big figure of some ₹ 20 lakh crore. Just as he had announced big things earlier. And failed to deliver. Sometimes Saheb says if doesn’t deliver, he can be held accountable on any crossroads of India. Maybe he was lurking in some Chaurasta on the highway. Some people walking back home had a faint idea of looking for him at a Chaurasta and questioning him. But they were engulfed by fear. After all, he could indeed be on the prowl at some Chowrasta to steal their rotis.
Blood, sweat and death mean nothing to this unconscionable government. It is inebriated by power and unrepentant about destroying India. They are insolent and respect none. The only thing they fear are questions—which the poor on the highways and railways are hoping that the privileged middle classes would ask. The poor on the streets hope justice would be done to them and thereby to India. They don’t mind if it’s at a chowrasta or any channel. They seek answers for the blood stained rotis on the railway tracks.