‘Sensitive’ Anand Vihar made off-limits to buses to stop large gatheringsUpdated: May 23, 2020 23:32 IST
Anand Vihar in east Delhi, which shares its border with Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad and considered a major transport hub of the national capital given that it houses an interstate bus terminal and a railway station, has been classified as a ‘no-go zone’ for Delhi buses by the government in an effort to prevent a large-scale gathering of people as was seen in the initial days of the nationwide lockdown on March 28 and 29.
Even as the rest of the city is being catered to by buses and other modes of transport since May 18, no Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus or cluster bus is being allowed to make trips to the Anand Vihar area, the Anand Vihar ISBT or the railway station, much to the distress of the residents there.
Even para-transit modes such as auto-rickshaws are being permitted only after thorough police checking, senior government officials said on Saturday.
“The Anand Vihar bus route is usually one the busiest in the city. We received directions from the district administration and the Delhi Police not to ply buses to Anand Vihar as the area has been categorised as “sensitive”. The bus terminal is completely shut and has been made off-limits by police barricades,” a senior government official, on condition of anonymity, said.
In the absence of the Metro, residents were hoping to least take buses to work, but now that, too, is not an option. “While the rest of the city is able to avail of bus services, we are not. Auto-rickshaws are hardly seen in the area, and the few that are there charge twice or three times the metre fare. My office opened this week and I mostly take a lift from my colleague to office, or sometimes, I book a cab,” Khushbu Rai, a resident of D Block Railway Colony, Anand Vihar, said.
A senior official in the district magistrate’s (Shahdara) office said the move is aimed to avoid any form of congregation in the area.
“In the last two days, there were reports of migrant workers crowding the area again, not on a large scale though. The problem is that the area also has the Kaushambi bus terminal on the other side, and many migrant families started coming to Anand Vihar in the hopes of boarding a bus to their home towns at least from the other side,” the official quoted above said.
Another official in the Delhi transport department said the UP government is also not running interstate buses. “If migrants simply reach Anand Vihar hoping to return home, it will be a futile effort. Only those who have applied to the administration and have been cleared for travelling can get a seat on a bus or a train. There are no interstate buses plying other than those which have been coordinated by the two states. Also, the Anand Vihar railway station is operational only for Shramik Special trains (meant exclusively o ferry migrants home),” the official said.
Days after the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, thousands of migrant workers had flocked to the Anand Vihar interstate bus terminal hoping to catch a ride home. At least a lakh migrant workers had gathered on the road outside the terminal, and many had tried to cross the border and find a bus from the Kaushambi terminal. Kejriwal had then urged migrant workers to stay back and promised them shelter and regular meals.
The gathering of migrant workers in large numbers, which led to blatant violation of social distancing norms, led the Union ministry of home affairs to suspend two top bureaucrats of the Delhi government, while issuing show cause notices to two others for ‘dereliction of duty’ regarding containment of spread of Covid-19.
The Delhi Police had then filed cases against cluster bus drivers and officials for taking their buses out on the roads and ferrying migrant workers to Anand Vihar.
Officials in the DTC said they are plying over 1,000 buses for public transport across the city and around 1,600 are deployed for transportation of migrant workers and for maintaining law and order. Also, a 1,000 cluster buses are plying in the city currently.
“Since the passenger numbers are more than what the available buses can cope with -- each bus can carry only a maximum of 20 passengers at a time to ensure social distancing -- we have identified 185 routes on which buses can operate on a rotational basis,” the official said.