Stranded migrants start pouring into government shelters

Updated on Mar 31, 2020 11:59 PM IST

In addition to the existing 238 night shelters in the city, the Delhi government also converted 11 schools into night shelters to accommodate migrant workers amidst the countrywide lockdown.

At the shelter set up in the Delhi government’s Ghazipur school, the number of occupants went up to 135 by Monday afternoon from just three on Sunday.(S Mehta/HT Photos)
At the shelter set up in the Delhi government’s Ghazipur school, the number of occupants went up to 135 by Monday afternoon from just three on Sunday.(S Mehta/HT Photos)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

A day after the city administration put a complete ban on movement of migrant workers within or outside Delhi, the newly built night shelters set up in government schools gradually started to fill up.

In addition to the existing 238 night shelters in the city, the Delhi government also converted 11 schools into night shelters to accommodate migrant workers amidst the countrywide lockdown, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on Monday.

At the shelter set up in the Delhi government’s Ghazipur school, the number of occupants went up to 135 by Monday afternoon from just three on Sunday. The in-charge of the shelter, Subedar Khan, who on Sunday was seen pleading people not to leave the facility, was busy maintaining the diary entries of the new entrants. “Apart from lunch and dinner, we will also be providing tea and snacks to the people living here. Today, at least we have some work to do. Yesterday (Sunday), we were sitting idle the whole day since there was no one,” he said.

While mattresses and blankets were available in all 21 classrooms that were turned into shelter rooms, officials demanded thermal screening of all those using the facility, but do not have the equipment to do so.

“Most of the people living here are those who could not manage to get a seat on any public transport facility to go to their villages in the neighbouring states. They all have come on foot from various borders, mostly from the Anand Vihar-Kaushambi border. They were part of large crowds, so we have asked for thermal screening machines to be given at every shelter. Let us see if we get it,” said another official deployed at the shelter.

At the school shelter set up in Patparganj, the number of people using the facility was 140 on Monday afternoon. Mattresses and pillows were placed at a gap of about 1-2 metres from each other on the floor of every classroom. The facility has 30 shelter rooms with a total of 200 beds.

“There are only two people living here who are originally from Delhi, rest all are natives of Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Here, we have bathing and toilet facilities with hand wash. We also have sufficient sanitizer and masks that will last for 10 days at least,” said Baban Ghosh, the in-charge of the Patparganj school shelter.

Jobless, without money to pay for food or shelter in the wake of a 21-day nationwide lockdown announced to curb the spread of Covid-19, migrant workers have been trying to return home in droves. On Saturday, the sea of tens of thousands of migrant workers from across the city walking towards Anand Vihar bus terminal to cross into Uttar Pradesh had taken the on-ground officials by complete surprise and left them overwhelmed.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday attributed the massive gathering of migrant workers at the border to rumours about buses being provided by the respective state governments. “On Friday and Saturday evening, a lot of people had gathered near Anand Vihar believing in rumours and the situation had become alarming. But, since Sunday, the situation is under control as all the borders were sealed. In all districts, the DMs, SDMs and the police are placing migrants in shelters and arranging for food in their respective areas. DMs in all districts have been strictly asked to ensure no resident steps out of their homes and no movement of migrant workers is allowed,” said Kejriwal in a digital press conference on Monday.

The chief minister, however, pointed out that a few people were still crossing Delhi into neighbouring states and has asked its neighbours, such as Uttar Pradesh, to also tighten their security along the borders.

SOON, RATION TO NON-CARD HOLDERS TOO

Kejriwal on Monday announced his government will soon provide ration to even those who are not covered under the government’s public distribution system (PDS).

“The Delhi government has started providing 1.5 times extra ration to 72 lakh ration cardholders in the city. But, many have come to us who are extremely poor and are in need but do not have ration cards to avail the benefit. So, we are working on a new system to give ration items to non-ration card holders as well. We will be able to start it in about four days or so,” Kejriwal said.

The chief minister also said that his government would take “strictest” action against dealers and transporters who misuse the ration supplied by the administration under its PDS. “Everything is being given free-of-cost. If any ration shop owner, dealer, transporter or food supply officer is found hoarding, black-marketing or indulging in any malpractice, I will ensure that the culprits get the strictest punishment and are sent to jail,” Kejriwal said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sweta Goswami writes on politics, urban development, transportation, energy and social welfare. Based in Delhi, she tracks government policies and suggests corrections based on public feedback and on-ground implementation through her reports. She has also covered the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its inception.

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