Coronavirus update: Amid lockdown, a sea of migrants in Delhi try to find their way back home | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Coronavirus update: Amid lockdown, a sea of migrants in Delhi try to find their way back home

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAbhishek Dey & Sweta Goswami
Mar 29, 2020 01:28 AM IST

From the bus terminals and borders, the migrants have the option of boarding buses – so far, 1,000 of them provided by the Uttar Pradesh government – for their villages and towns. The Uttarakhand government is expected to roll out a similar service very soon.

A gathering of tens of thousands of migrant workers from across the city, walking towards Anand Vihar bus terminal to cross into Uttar Pradesh, took officials on the ground by surprise on Saturday. Till late evening, there was no relent in the sea of people marching towards the border.

A huge rush of migrant workers who had been marching on foot to their homes, seen at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal on day 4 of the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
A huge rush of migrant workers who had been marching on foot to their homes, seen at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal on day 4 of the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

On the roads, some workers tried to stop some government buses headed towards the Delhi-UP border at Anand Vihar. The bus drivers, however, folded their hands, apologised and drove away. There was no space remaining inside the bus. Unable to board a bus, thousands of men, women and children continued to walk towards the border. Deepak Yadav, along with his wife and three children, were among the many who could not get inside a bus.

At Vikas Marg near ITO, a group of volunteers found Yadav and his family walking and offered them food. “ We have walked over 15 kilometers from Sangam Vihar. We tried thrice but could not get inside a bus,” he said.

On the road outside the bus terminal, the exodus of migrant workers seemed to have taken the government officials by surprise as any signs of management was limited to police and the civil defence personnel allowing the workers to board the buses in small batches and doctors screening people for temperatures with thermal scanners.

“I walked 10 kilometers to reach Anand Vihar. If I don’t find a bus here, I’ll walk to my home in Kanpur,” said Rahul Ranjan, a plumber, echoing the sentiment of many others.

To help people reach the bus terminals and city borders, the Delhi government had pressed 570 buses into service, said transport minister Kailash Gahlot, even as deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia urged migrants to “adhere to the lockdown for their own safety.” Sisodia spent long hours at the Delhi-UP border trying to convince people to stay back.

From the bus terminals and borders, the migrants have the option of boarding buses – so far, 1,000 of them provided by the Uttar Pradesh government – for their villages and towns. The Uttarakhand government is expected to roll out a similar service very soon.

The Delhi Police deployed dozens of police personnel at Anand Vihar and increased the deployment of personnel on the ground as the crowds surged, said MS Randhawa, the spokesperson of the city’s police force.

“At every check post we tried to persuade the people to stay back on Delhi, assuring them of food and medical attention,” he said.

Those in queue said social and physical distancing could wait. They continued to push each other on a two-kilometer long queue to be among the lucky ones to find and board a bus.

“Our worry is not the coronavirus. We are more worried about getting stranded in Delhi. We will think about the virus after reaching home,” Manu Yadav, 21, said.

The Delhi government said that they were unable to provide buses to drop the workers home because their buses run on CNG. “All our buses are CNG-based and we could not provide the Delhi Transport Corporation buses or cluster buses to drop migrants to cities in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan,and Haryana, among other states, because of lack of CNG stations these. The buses would run out of fuel,” said a senior official in Delhi transport department.

Another official said, “Friday night, a huge number of workers started moving towards the Kaushambi bus terminal (near Anand Vihar) after learning that around 1,000 buses are being deployed by the Uttar Pradesh government there. On getting this information, the Delhi government started sending its DTC buses to pick people up from the road and ferrying them to the Kaushambi bus terminal. The terminal, like the Anand Vihar terminal, was completely shut from all sides and people started gathering in large numbers on the main road.”

On Friday, union home secretary Ajay Bhalla, wrote to all chief secretaries of states about migrant workers leaving for their homes and asked them to stop the exodus by providing them facilities.

“Saturday morning, while Uttar Pradesh provided its buses, the Delhi government started offering bus service to migrant workers from its Ghazipur depot to Hapur in Uttar Pradesh. Those who wanted to be dropped at the UP border for taking the state-operated buses were allowed to deboard,” said a senior official in the Delhi government.

Meanwhile, the government shelter homes - 234 night shelters and 35 community halls - continued to operate beyond full capacity with around 20,000 people residing in it against the strength of 16,000, said Bipin Rai, member of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board.

While the government started distributing food in more than 500 school premises, at least 100 of them will be turned into shelters in the next 24 hours.

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