Bundelkhand and the lockdown: Stories of struggle and heartbreak. A photo essay

People living in Bundelkhand have been dealing with many issues like water scarcity, no job opportunities and migration for years. But, It will take them a while to recover from the lockdown

Yash Sachdev
| Updated: May 30th, 2020

Bundelkhand is divided between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Amid this nationwide lockdown, Gaon Connection reporters Arvind Shukla and Yash Sachdev travelled to Bundelkhand for about a week and visited many villages.

The region has been dealing with many issues like water scarcity, frequent droughts, no job opportunities, and rampant migration for years. However, with this lockdown, new challenges have emerged.  People have been migrating from Bundelkhand in search of jobs. There were many ghost villages in the region. While many are still stuck in different cities, many have managed to come back home. “What next?” is something that, presumably, they must have been thinking about on their way back home.

Lalitpur, on the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border, was buzzing with activities. Thousands of migrant labourers who had to go to their hometowns in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh had arrived here — in trains, in trucks, on foot. A cow shelter has been converted into a shelter home for these migrant labourers. Many buses were plying from here. Social distancing was the last thing on the minds of these labourers. They just wanted to get back home … somehow, anyhow. There were exhausted faces, staring blankly into nothingness. There were women and children who were battling hunger, thirst, and heat. “What next?”

In every village, people were discussing jobs, or the lack of them, no ration, no water, no cash. It remains to be seen how people living here will deal with the aftermath of the lockdown. They said they have bigger problems to deal with and wearing masks was the last thing on their minds. Or washing hands. Well, they can’t wash their hands, not frequently at least … there is water scarcity.    

Picture credit: Yash Sachdev. Text: Arvind Singh Parmar

These tribal women, who hail from Rasoi village in Bundelkhand, live in ‘homes’ made of tattered clothes and plastic sheets. Although they have job cards, they haven’t got any work under the MGNREGA scheme for the last two years. They are dependent on forest produce for their livelihood. This lockdown has hit them hard
A woman sitting in front of her son’s house. The son migrated to Indore, Madhya Pradesh to look for a job. He is stuck in Indore since the lockdown began
A woman sitting in front of her house in Madoan village, Birdha block, Bundelkhand. Many men and women from this village and nearby villages work in rock mines. More than 60 such mines have been shut for the past two years affecting the livelihood of around 50,000 villagers. Many were forced to migrate in search of work
Bundelkhand has been dealing with a water crisis for many years. Most of the handpumps and borewells run dry in summers. These women in Khairapur village were seen pumping water from a handpump
A tribal woman and her daughter from Pali village in Lalitpur district were collecting tendu leaves — a minor forest produce used for making beedi or mini cigar. They had packed chapatis for lunch … just chapatis. Because of the lockdown, many families are not getting enough ration
This tribal woman in Khairpura village was sitting outside her thatched house. She had cooked chapatis, which she was eating along with the mixture of chickpea flour and water. This was her lunch
In Pali village, many farmers are dependent on betel leaves cultivation to make a living. This village is also known as Pan (betel leaves) Pali. Because of the lockdown, farmers couldn’t sell the produce because of which the betel leaves are rotting
Farmers are seen carrying mud pots on their shoulders. They would use water for irrigation in their betel leaf farms. They have to repeat this process three-four times a day
Those from the Sahariya tribe are dependent on goat farming to make a living. This picture was taken at Khairpura village in Madavra block
Despite the scorching heat, many women in Saipura village were seen working in the fields. They managed to get work under the MGNREGA scheme. They work very hard so that their families can eat
This image was taken in Bamhori Bansha village of Birdha block. A few children were playing with their dolls. This girl decided to drape a saree and be a doll herself
Many policemen were patrolling on National Highway 44 in Lalitpur, which is on Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border. They were forcefully stopping trucks so that migrant labourers could be sent back home
A house in Madaon village. A family belonging to the Sahariya tribe lives here
This elderly person hails from Khairpura village in Mandwara block. She belongs to the Sahariya tribe
This image was clicked in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh