Amid the lockdown at least 10 million migrant workers evacuated cities, several lost their jobs because of the lockdown and retreated to their homes. Special trains were launched for them on May 1, while many ended up walking to their native place. Some hired trucks and automobiles, a few cycled back home even after April. The state of West Bengal alone is tallied to have seen the retrieval of at least a million such workers.
Paying tributes to the migrant workers who have undergone the most during this coronavirus pandemic, the West Bengal Durga Puja committee has decided to install idols of the migrant worker in the puja pandals. In the preceding week, The Barisha Club installed a statue of woman migrant worker with her children in place of Durga as a tribute, and to emphasise the hardship of migrant workers, who due to the pandemic are still struggling to survive this crisis.
The statue illustrates a saree-clad mother with her child, Kartik, on her waist. Behind the statue of the mother are her two daughters; one represents Goddess Lakshmi, with an owl in her arms, and the other is with a duck.
A fourth idol with the head of an elephant is of Lord Ganesha.
“She is our Durga. Eight other hands are seen in the background. She epitomises the migrant labourers’ pain, cries, suffering and resilience when business activities came to nil, and road communication stopped. But still, the migrant labourers did not stay back. They boarded vehicles on their own, walked thousands of miles, collapsed but again stood up. This is our tribute to the migrants,” a puja committee spokesperson said.
As the state gears up for its biggest festival, most of them are convinced to keep it low key. Numerous pandal organisers have either paid homage to COVID-19 warriors or showed coronavirus as the demon Mahishasur to be destroyed by the goddess. But the Durga puja committee has still tuned theme-based pujas like last 20 years.
At Naktala Udayan Sangha, a truck has been decorated near the marquee with illustrations of migrant labourers, hastening to get on board the carrier.
Our pandal is called waves. It reflects the waves of returning migrants from different corners. We have employed migrant labourers from different districts to portray the theme,” puja committee office-bearer Anjan Das informed the news agency PTI.
“Not only are we installing statues of migrant workers on the move to portray one of the biggest human migrations the country witnessed after partition; but we are also coming up with a statue of actor Sonu Sood, who booked chartered flights, trains and buses to help migrant workers return home. A real bus will be parked in our pandal, and there will be statues of migrant workers seated inside the bus,” said Ranjit Chakraborty, secretary of Keshtopur Prafulla Kanan (Paschim) Adhibasi Prinda puja committee in north Kolkata.
The puja will be inducted by the migrant worker and residents in the area will turn off their lights at homes, light diyas and observe a minute’s silence to mourn the passing of migrant workers who died on the way back home.
“Our pandal will be inaugurated by the migrants who were working round the clock since past one month, and during the inauguration, the entire locality will be plunged into darkness for a while to show respect to the migrants who had died during return,” Chakraborty said.
The festivals will continue for a week. The every year big-theme pujas parade down the road to take part in a carnival during immersion, where thousands were gathered has been cancelled this year because of the limitations of COVID-19 pandemic.