Ghaziabad administration struggles to screen migrants arriving at state borders
Since Friday morning, thousands of migrant workers have arrived at the Kaushambi ISBT, and Lal Kuan in order to get a bus home. The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) is running special buses to take migrant workers to their respective home towns in the stateUpdated: Mar 28, 2020 22:57 IST
As large number of migrant labourers, returning from Delhi and adjoining cities, have been lining up at the Delhi-Ghaziabad borders to reach their home towns after a 21-day national lockdown was announced on March 24, officials of the district administration have not been able to screen most of them for symptoms of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“We only have two thermal scanners for screening migrant labourers. Using them our two teams scanned some migrant labourers at the Kaushambi intersection. We admit that all of them could not be screened, but we tried best with the sources available to us” said Dr NK Gupta, chief medical officer (CMO), Ghaziabad.
Since Friday morning, thousands of migrant workers have arrived at the Kaushambi ISBT, and Lal Kuan in order to get a bus home. The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) is running special buses to take migrant workers to their respective home towns in the state.
While the administration has not been able to scale up measures for screening the migrants, health officials said getting the migrants to maintain social distance is a big challenge.
“The police helped our two teams in managing the large crowd at Kaushambi, but more and more workers have been coming into the state. This could prove very discouraging in our efforts to maintain social distance to halt the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” the CMO said.
“As many of these workers could be engaged as domestic helps, drivers etc, we can only hope that they did not come in contact with any positive patient. Otherwise, there is a risk that the infection could spread to others including to the family members of the migrants when they reach their respective home towns,” Dr Gupta added.
The migrants returning home said maintaining social distance was like a privilege that they could not afford in such desperate times.
“The concept of social distancing was openly flouted here, but poor workers cannot be blamed for gathering in large numbers as they have no money, no food and want to be back to their homes. All the business have been shut and they have no work and everyone just wants to board a bus to reach home,” said Atul Kumar, who had come to Lal Kuan intersection on Saturday from Noida to take a bus to his home town Etawah. Kumar works for a BPO (business process outsource) company and stays in a rented house in Sector 59, Noida. “Whenever a bus arrives, hundreds of workers rush towards to get inside it. In such a case, there can be no social distancing and regulating such a huge crowd is very difficult.”
Daily wage earners found themselves the most vulnerable. “We don’t even have masks or items like hand sanitizers, and we cannot afford these for every member of our family. Women and girls are cover their mouths with their dupatta, while the men tied up handkerchiefs to protect themselves. We just want to reach our home town as work is shut now and we have no money to sustain ourselves even for a day or two,” said Ramavtar Mishra, a daily-wage worker, who walked from Gurugram with his family to get a bus to Lucknow.
Meanwhile, residents of localities such as Indirapuram lined up at different places on National Highway 9 to distribute food, water and other items to the migrant labourers who were walking towards Lal Kuan intersection to get buses.
“The scenes of poor workers walking with their children and families were very discouraging, so we arranged some food fro them. The daily wage earners were large in number and had no clue on managing the huge crowd to maintain some physical distance. They were lined up shoulder to shoulder, and were closely packed inside the buses and their rooftops” said Alok Kumar, founding member, Federation of Association of Apartment Owners.
“After gauging the size of the crowd of migrant workers, we think that even 1,000 buses would prove insufficient to take them to their home. Hundreds of migrant workers had come to Kaushambi on Friday night and people in such a large crowd could be exposed to any kind of infection and may carry it further,” said VK Mittal, president, Kaushambi apartments’ RWA.
Despite repeated attempts, district magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey did not responds to calls.
In a statement on Saturday, the district administration officials said they had made arrangements for distributing over 25,000 food packets besides ensuring social distancing among the migrants and sanitising special buses meant for them.