India – Salesians give internal migrants the only food they will have for their long journeys

28 May 2020

(ANS - Mumbai) - The situation generated by Covid-19 in India remains worrying. The country is currently in tenth place worldwide for infections, with over 158,000 cases recorded, but there are fears that it can quickly climb this sad ranking to second place, after the United States. Many internal Indian migrant citizens are still looking to return to their home states. Numerous special convoys have been organized, but social distancing measures and the large number of people involved make everything slow, complicated and painful. Fr Barnabe D’Souza, Director of the Salesian center of Nerul, in Navi Mumbai, with his team, is helping those seeking to get out of the Indian megacity.

There is a long wait for those waiting their turn to leave Mumbai on the trains and buses made available by the authorities. People checked in 3 or 4 weeks ago. Then their names had to climb the boundless computer-generated list. They were then called by the police to the local police station to verify their identity 4-5 hours in advance. There they are then taken on a municipal bus that takes them to the railway station. There, too, their temperature is checked, and they stand in line waiting for their seat to be assigned. The whole process takes about 6-8 hours, if all goes well, and eventually, their train leaves the station.

But sometimes the train is 4 or 6 hours late, or canceled. It is a nightmare for them, because they are not people used to living on the street at night.

The Salesians in the center of Nerul provide internal migrants returning home with a package of nutritious food for the trip and a bottle of water. Many of them, arriving at their destination, call to thank the Salesians. “There was no canteen on the train, no stalls opened for even a cup of tea in the stations we stopped ... Your food packet was what kept us going,” said one of them.

“Thank your Father, your food packet was the only food we received for our entire 3-day trip. God will surely bless you and all those that helped us,” added another who made it home.

For his part, Fr D'Souza says: “Every time we give food to migrants on the road, we accompany it with a word of encouragement: 'God be with you on your journey, pray for us and for those who have helped give you these packages'. And while I give him the blessing, they answer me in chorus: Bhagwan apka bala kare, that is, 'God bless you all', they reciprocate the blessing. One feels the deep sense of gratitude for a small packet of food and water, as if it were their most valuable gift received for their journey.”


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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