Nana Chiloda, Gandhinagar: At first sight they look like any other group of pilgrims, probably walking down to a temple, a common sight along the highways in Gujarat. But they are not.

As the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus infection widens in the state, thousands of migrant labourers who work in Ahmedabad, have taken the road to reach their homes in the southern districts of Rajasthan.

“Our group has about 300 people, all from Dungarpur,” said Rajkumar, who works as a casual labourer in a food stall in Memnagar area of Ahmedabad. “Most of us have started early and have gone ahead. We have a long way to catch up with them.” Reena, who works as a domestic help in Ghatlodia, said, “Our landlord has evicted us, saying that we shall contract the disease and will kill them. We have also been thrown out of work.”

The prime minister’s appeal to all citizens to stay at home to help fight the virus spread needs everyone’s cooperation for it to be effective. “We have neither been paid for the days we have worked,” Reena said, picking up her five-month-old child as a toddler latches on.

“Problem is everything is shut and we shall barely have any access to food and water on the way,” said Anil Manat, a member of the group that’s making its way to Rajasthan.

Similar stories abound as one moves closer to Chiloda from Gandhinagar. “We are now trying to stop them at these points and helping them with food and medication. Already we have given them lunch and will provide them for dinner, if they remain there,” said Mayur Chavda, superintendent of police, Gandhinagar. “We have also deployed some mobile vans along the way to provide food for these people.”

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