Lockdown leads to chaos at borders, hopelessness at interstate bus terminals and long walks for some labourersUpdated: Mar 23, 2020 23:50 IST
The sealing of Delhi’s borders on Monday morning caused confusion and chaos among motorists trying to cross over the city’s borders. Many took to arguing and pleading with the police who were told to not allow anyone, except essential services, through.
With Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announcing a complete lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, residents had been advised to travel only if unavoidable, and public transport was reduced to almost a trickle.
At the checkpoints, many found themselves stranded.
For the most part of the day, the police refused to give into the pleadings and arguments of the motorists – allowing only those they were convinced were genuine cases passage. But as evening set in, they were seen letting more motorists cross over.
Police attempted to turn away most people through persuasion and even the threat of a “penalty”, and often resorted to loudspeakers to get their message across. Some motorists even offered to pay the “penalty”, which however was non-existent as the lockdown did not entail any such penalty.
The lockdown caught many Delhi residents who were outside the state off guard.
Delhi’s police commissioner, SN Shrivastava, had on Sunday said that the police would not stop Delhi residents from entering the city if they found themselves trapped in other states after the lockdown.
But the situation on the ground was very different.
“My children and wife are alone at home in Dwarka. I had visited Faridabad last night to drop some relatives to their home,” Santosh Pathak, who works for a telecommunication company, told a policeman at the Delhi-Faridabad border.
“Please, no arguments,” the policeman responded.
Pathak produced his car’s registration certificate in a bid to convince the police that he was a bonafide resident of Delhi, but the police refused to see his documents.
Yogesh Kumar, a resident of Punjabi Bagh, was denied entry at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border even as he told policemen that he was returning from Aligarh after a relative’s funeral. “I know about the lockdown orders but I had to return home. My wife and son are also with me. The policemen won’t listen to reason,” he said.
Then there were others who alleged that their genuine reasons were not heard.
Arun Mehta, a Karol Bagh resident, said that he was returning after visiting a hospital where his son was admitted with a stomach infection. “He was discharged on Sunday, but the doctor asked me to show his pathological reports too. I visited the hospital before 6am on Monday, but now the policemen won’t let me enter Delhi despite me showing the medical reports,” said Mehta.
Anto Alphonse, the deputy commissioner of police (Dwarka), said that motorists trying to enter the city in his district were being allowed to enter if they produced any evidence of their residence in the national capital. “We did send back certain motorists if they did not have a good reason to enter Delhi, but genuine city residents were allowed in on producing their addresses. No essential service provider was stopped and they came in from places such as Bahadurgarh and Jhajjar,” said the officer.
DCP Alphonse said that there were 26 points in Dwarka district which shared borders with Haryana. “We sealed 18 of those borders using barricades and chains and allowed entry through the remaining major borders,” he said.
Similar steps were taken in other districts that share borders with Haryana or Uttar Pradesh. RP Meena, the deputy commissioner of police (south-east), said that only four border points in his district were open for motorists to drive in or out. Two of these borders were with Noida and the other two with Faridabad.
“We have tried to make sure that no genuine residents of Delhi were left out,” said Meena.
Meanwhile, away from the borders, hundreds of commuters who landed in Delhi before the train and bus services were suspended were faced with the absence of basic facilities and had nowhere to go. Outside the Anand Vihar interstate bus terminal itself, over 400 people from places such as Nepal, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh spent their time on the roadside without access to food, water and toilet.
Most of them hoped that the authorities would arrange special buses to take to them home, but the good news never arrived.
“We were travelling in a train from Pune when the lockdown order was issued in Delhi. By the time we reached Sarai Kale Khan bus terminal, all transport services to our hometown in Uttarakhand had suspended. We managed to reach Anand Vihar bus terminal in the hope of finding a bus or taxi, but we are left on the roads now,” said Umesh Chandra Bhatt who belongs to Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand.
Bhatt and many other stranded passengers alleged that the security personnel forced them out of the Anand Vihar bus terminal, where they were at least able to buy snacks, biscuits and water for themselves.
Among other commuters impacted by the lockdown were factory workers on both sides of the city. Many of them said they knew only of the Janata Curfew and not the lockdown.
On Monday, they walked long kilometres, often waving at vehicles passing by in the hope of getting a lift. Bhuvan Singh, who works a field job in Govindpuri, said that he reached the Badarpur Border by bus, but may have to walk all the way to his home in Palwal. “If I keep walking, I’ll reach my home by today or tomorrow,” he said about his 40-kilometre walk plan.
Singh said he didn’t know of the lockdown until Monday morning. “I have a basic phone and keep to myself,” he said about why he wasn’t aware of the lockdown.
DCP Meena said that these people walking across the borders were not stopped. “Most of them were unaware of the lockdown. But there will be better awareness by Tuesday and hopefully, we’ll see fewer people at these border check posts,” said Meena.