It was a grim deja vu of last year’s mass exodus of migrant workers from big cities to their homes in rural India soon after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a week-long curfew in Delhi to control the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of migrant workers gathered at Anand Vihar ISBT here to catch a bus home, even though Kejirwal appealed to them with folded hands to not leave Delhi while sounding a word of assurance, “Main hoon na” (I am here for you). Even on Tuesday morning, migrant workers gathered at bus terminals as they rushed to leave for home.
According to reports over 5,000 people had gathered at Anand Vihar, including at ISBT as well as the railway station and the numbers were rising. On Monday when Kejriwal announced the lockdown, he mentioned the migrant workers and urged them not to leave as the lockdown was for a short duration and would not be extended.
“I assure you, the government will take full care of you. Main hun na, mujh par bharosa rakho (I am here for you, have faith in me),” Kejriwal said, announcing the lockdown from 10 PM tonight to 5am next Monday.
A senior police officer said after the sudden announcement of the lockdown, thousands of migrant workers thronged the ISBT Anand Vihar area.
“We have deployed maximum force here. There must be over 5,000 people here at present. Buses are limited as of now, we are guiding people as per their destination,” he said. The police were also in talks with civil adminstration officials to either arrange transport for them or shelter homes for their temporary stay, the officer said.
Policemen deployed in the area were also trying to counsel the migrant workers to stay back as the lockdown was for a few days only, he added.
However, migrants feared that the lockdown could be extended as the situation of COVID-19 was deteriorating day by day.
Mukesh Pratap, who works at a cloth factory in Dilsad Garden and a native of UP’s Bareilly, said he wanted to go to his home as there was a possibility of lockdown extension.
“Lockdown will definitely affect our livelihood so it is better for us to remain at our home. It may be extended also and I would not like to take a chance,” he said.
In an online briefing, the chief minister said, “I would like to appeal to them(migrants), with folded hands, this is a short lockdown of six days. Please do not leave Delhi. You would lose a lot of time, money, and energy in travelling. Stay in Delhi.”
Kejriwal said it was not an easy decision to impose lockdown because it hurt the poor people most.
“I understand how people lose their jobs and wages during the lockdown. This is especially difficult for the poor people and daily wage workers,” he said.
During the nationwide lockdown last year, a large number of migrant workers from Bihar, UP and other states living in Delhi had moved to their home states, through whatever means available and often on foot.
(with PTI inputs)
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