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Filmmaker-Journalist Vinod Kapri’s Documentary on  Migrants’ Lockdown Journey

1232 Kilometers  is  the destination that  30 migrants  in the age-group   of  22-32 cycled from Delhi to reach their homes in the Saharsa district of Bihar.

And  filmmaker Vinod Kapri ,  who  directed  the  feature film Pihu about a little girl stranded  alone in her  home(sounds ominous,  considering  what we’re going through),  followed  their  journey which is now  a documentary titled  1,232  Kilometers.

How did Kapri’s journey begin? “Basically , this journey  is a  manifestation  of  my own  guilt and remorse.  From Day 1 on March 25  when the lockdown was announced I was constantly following the stories  and movements of   migrant  labourers. On March  26 I met this  lady who was  walking  all  the way from  Delhi to her hometown  in  Kanpur  with her  three daughters . They were a  group of nine people.I  followed  her journey until we reached  Aligarh  at 2.30  am . She  wanted to  take  rest for a few hours, But when I  joined them again at  5.45  am  she was nowhere  to be seen. I was  guilt-stricken  for having left her for  a few hours.”

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Then  Vinod says  he  got  into this  other migrants’ predicament.  “I read a Tweet on 13 April  about these  migrant  labourers   from Bihar who  were  hungry for four days and there was a  phone number. I immediately called  them and helped them  get food After that  they started calling me regularly. When  food  supplies  dried up  I  put some money in their account.They then said they wanted  to return home .On April 28 when some people reached their place of  residence  in Delhi with food,  they were not there. I called again, and the migrants told me they had left for their home in Saharsa Bihar  as they were fed up of scrounging  for food . I was  shocked.   I asked how did they leave.  They told me they had all  asked for some  money 1200-1500 rupees from their homes  to buy second-hand bicycles  . They were cycling home.They were calling from  Hapur,  70  miles  from Delhi.”

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 Vinod Kapri decided to  join them. “I  told them I  was  heading out to meet them . I caught  up with them in Moradabad.  They  were  30  of them all  in  the age  group  of  22-32. But they were badly beaten in Mukhteshwar by  cops. So  they split up  in three groups. I accompanied  a group of 7 migrant  labourers all the way their village in Saharsa  a  total  of  1232 kms on their rickety bicycles . It took seven days.I  met their  families, their parents , wives  and  children.They did  the impossible.”

Vinod Kapiri’s  documentary on  the  cycling migrants   is almost ready. These migrant labourers are now part of  my  extended family.  They  video- call me  in the evenings  and show  me how  comfortable they are  in their isolation centre.”

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Kapri  feels the Government   has no plan for migrants.  “In fact they have no  emotions for them. These labourers  do not exist   for the Government.”

 There are several streaming platforms  showing a keen  interest  in Kapri’s documentary.

“The  middleclass  needs  to be made aware of the migrants’ plights.Because these migrant labourers have lost  all faith  in the Government.   When  pilgrims  are fed and  sheltered  by the public  during their journey to their  teerth spot,   why not  these migrants?What can be a greater punya than  feeding these hungry migrants? Don’t  come into physical  contact with  them. But at least leave food packets  for them,” urges Vinod Kapri.

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