As the World Celebrated Mother’s Day, This Migrant Worker Delivered Her Baby on a National Highway


As the World Celebrated Mother’s Day, This Migrant Worker Delivered Her Baby on a National Highway

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Every year we set aside one day out to reach out to our mothers to let them – and everyone on our friends list – know that they are “supermom(s)”, the real “wonder woman” and the like. Our social media timelines are flooded with throwback pictures, multiple “I love you, Mom” statuses, and some wholesome challenges to keep up with the trends. Some mothers, however, don’t get the same love – some don’t even get to deliver their children in peace and basic safety.

In a shocking case, a migrant worker mother, Shakuntala, was forced to give birth to her baby on the roadside. They were on their way back to their village. Within an hour of giving birth, Shakuntala had to resume the walk back home.

Shakuntala and her husband Rakesh Koul, who is a migrant labourer in Nashik, decided to undertake the arduous walk of 1,000 kms to their village in Satna, along with a two-year-old daughter and 13 others. Rakesh and the people accompanying them in the long journey had lost their jobs as industries in Nashik shut down in order to comply with the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. With no income or food to sustain themselves, they decided to walk back to their homes in Uchhahra village in Madhya Pradesh. “We had nothing to eat. We had to go home, where there are people we know who would help us,” Koul told the Times Of India.

The group had already covered 70 kms on foot and had reached Pimpalgaon when Shakuntala started experiencing labour pains. On May 5, with the help of four women in their company, Shakuntala delivered her baby on the Agra-Mumbai National Highway.  With merely an hour’s worth of rest, cradling the newborn in her arms, the mother managed to walk another 160 kms in her feeble condition.

When the group made it to Bisajan town along the Maharashtra-MP border, the police noticed Shakuntala with a newborn. The Bijasan police check-post incharge Kavita Kanesh reached out to the mother to provide assistance. On learning of her ordeal, the police team was quick to provide the group with food, water, along with footwear for the barefoot kids. A Sikh family that the group came across at Dhule, provided the newborn baby clothes.

Even as thousands of us celebrated Mother’s Day, Shakuntala is an example of the desperation and the humanitarian crisis our migrant populations are in the midst of.

For weeks now, state and central governments have been promising to make provisions to help migrant workers reach their villages, but is help reaching the ones most in need?

Each day brings a new headline that highlights the continuous struggle of the migrant workers.

The decision by the Centre to enact a lockdown, that is currently in its third phase, has only spelt tragedy for the poor.

While the administration at Bijasan town has now made bus arrangements to send the families back to their homes in Uchhahra village, this is sadly not the last of migrant woes we will witness in the days to come.