Long road home


Close to a month into the lockdown, hundreds of temporary migrant workers who have run out of money or been evicted by landlords, are trekking from Kathmandu across Nepal to reach their home districts. 

These photographs are of 47 daily-wage workers including their families were headed to Sindhuli district, 135km away from Kathmandu, on Saturday. 

They were living in Baudha, Harisiddhi and Kalanki and had day jobs mostly in construction. They could not get on the last buses before the lockdown was suddenly announced on 24 March. 

Running out of cash and food, the families finally decided to walk home. But locals in Lubhu reported the group to the police and they were taken into custody, and provided food. After much deliberation, the police coordinated a lorry to take them to their home district. They journey would have taken them four days if they had walked.

Walking 3 days to get home, Sanjay Mishra

Temporary migrant workers at a shelter before they were allowed to leave on the lorry.

Since the nationwide lockdown, hundreds have been walking from Kathmandu along Nepal's main highways to get as far as Kailali district 600km away, sometimes walking for a week. A group of 60 including women and children have taken the old caravan route to Kathmandu from the plains via Bhimpedi. 

Locals are not cruel everywhere. A group called Damki Rocks has started free lunch and resting service in Bhimphedi for families walking home. In Province 5, the local government is helping families who are in transit through the province with food and shelter. 

In Banepa, the community has lined up shoes along the sidewalk along with water and food, which the trekkers can pick up.

Lockdown limbi in no man's land, Deepak Kharel

Police along the way are torn between orders from headquarters to stop and return the families fleeing Kathmandu, and giving them humanitarian assistance. Some police on sentry duty have helped families hitch ride on vegetable trucks.

The prime minister's office has been facing criticism for not being sensitive to the plight of stranded workers and their families, and had decided last week to allow two days for people from Kathmandu who wanted to get home and had even tried to organise buses. But the decision was rescinded by the Home Ministry.

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