While the entire country has quarantined itself in face of the Coronavirus crisis, the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border bears a rather bleak, sad picture with visuals of thousands of people huddled together at Anand Vihar ISBT and Kaushambi Bus depot coming in from yesterday.
Delhi: Migrant workers in very large numbers at Delhi's Anand Vihar bus terminal, to board buses to their respective home towns and villages. They have walked to the bus terminal on foot from different parts of the city. pic.twitter.com/IeToP3hX7H
— ANI (@ANI) March 28, 2020
Scene at Kaushambi Bus depo (gaziabad), where thousands of migrant are in que take the roadways bus to reach thier native village. #Social_Distancing ki eesi ki taisi ho gayi. pic.twitter.com/l2Ebf3EUb3
— snehanshu shekhar (@snehanshus) March 28, 2020
Scenes a short while ago at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminus. pic.twitter.com/1iO4QkWHFc
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) March 28, 2020
The “migrant” crisis had actually started after a nationwide lockdown was announced, with reports of thousands of migrant workers returning to their homes in Uttar Pradesh from Delhi started coming in. However, the Centre was quick to announce a massive relief package to the tune of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore which would have come as a massive assurance to the panic-stricken migrant workers.
But things in Delhi took a turn for the worse yesterday after the entire nation watched a terrifyingly chaotic situation unfold at the Delhi-UP border. Thousands of Uttar Pradesh-bound travellers gathered at the Anand Vihar ISBT in Delhi that caters to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar.
While the elitist media has portrayed this through the “rich-poor” perspective, the crisis certainly doesn’t fit into this binary. The reason being that those who mobilised at the Anand Vihar ISBT were not just construction workers and poor labourers, but also professionals and students preparing for competitive examinations who wanted to head back home given how things have come to a standstill in Delhi, like everywhere else in the country.
Please be with me till end.
Migrant workers, irrespective of their economic status, are rushing to home.
The media is trying to weave a rich-poor narrative, but the fact remains that even economically secure ones with enough income to pay for food and-
— Amit Agrahari (@amit_agrahari94) March 29, 2020
But why did the crowds suddenly turn up at the Delhi-UP border yesterday? What led to people turning up at the Anand Vihar ISBT en masse? The answer lies in events that immediately preceded the chaos that unfolded.
It is the kind of rumouring and announcements in Delhi, about UP Roadways buses arriving at the Anand Vihar Bus Stand, that can be heard in this video which led to the “migrants” flocking to the Delhi-UP border.
दिल्ली में इस तरह बस्तियों में रात को माइक से अनाउंसमेंट किये गए थे
आनंद विहार के लिए बस जा रही हैं, वहां से आगे यूपी बिहार के लिए बस मिलेगी
सोते हुए लोगों को उठा उठाकर बसों से बॉर्डर पर भेजा गया
ये बहुत सोची समझी साजिश की गई हैं pic.twitter.com/bSOSSy9ILZ
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) March 29, 2020
What also facilitated the crowds of thousands at the Anand Vihar ISBT was DTC bus service, as 570 buses arranged by the Delhi government dropped people into the face of a major disaster by dropping them at the Delhi-UP border, left to fend for themselves. Why these buses were not used to drop travellers to their homes instead of leaving them stranded at Anand Vihar is something that is beyond comprehension.
Instead of empty appeal why don't u stop DTC bus which is ferrying migrants to state border and also ask DM & other officials to make arrangements for them in Delhi itself ??https://t.co/bKD5z7rdrg
— Dhaval Patel (@dhaval241086) March 29, 2020
Moreover, according to an Amar Ujala report, those who gathered at the Delhi-UP border narrated their ordeal. These people heading towards their destinations in UP said that their water and electricity supply was disconnected in Delhi and they were also not able to procure food or milk. Hungry and deserted, they had to depart for their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh.
This comes on the back of some really botched up preparation for the lockdown in Delhi. Remember, the lockdown in Delhi was imposed by Chief Minister Kejriwal even before Prime Minister Modi announced a nationwide lockdown, and as such the National Capital had that much more time to prepare for it.
However, in the days preceding the migrant crisis, the Kejriwal government was on a PR spree with videos of food being served at the night shelters doing the rounds on social media. What these night shelters however turned out to be was hotbeds of crowding despite increased stress on social distancing and breaking the chain of the spread of Coronavirus.
UP और दिल्ली – दोनों सरकारों ने बसों का इंतज़ाम तो कर दिया। लेकिन मेरी अभी भी सभी से अपील है कि वे जहां है, वहीं रहें। हमने दिल्ली में रहने, खाने, पीने, सबका इंतज़ाम किया है। कृपया अपने घर पर ही रहें। अपने गाँव ना जायें। नहीं तो लॉकडाउन का मक़सद ही खतम हो जाएगा। https://t.co/fbtqhhck86
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 28, 2020
What the people gathered at the Delhi-UP border also revealed is the issue of rents. most of the migrant labourers and workers in Delhi live on rent. Due to the paucity of savings, they do not have the capacity to pay rents to their landlords. One of those stranded at the ISBT said, “I have no money and my landlord asked me to pay the rent. He said if I could not pay the rent, then I should vacate the room. My contractor also said he has no money to give me, so it is best to go back home. And I have no option but to walk all the way.”
It is important to mention here that while the Noida District Magistrate waived off the rent for the ongoing month in view of the ongoing lockdown so that migrant labourers didn’t have to worry about losing their accommodation, no such order was passed in Delhi. It seems that Delhi was not at all prepared to handle the situation despite having announced the lockdown itself.
Now, the Centre too has taken cognizance of this crisis. A statement by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has also taken note of the issue of pending rents. The statement makes some damning observations.
It states that Centre had issued orders for use of SDRF funds yesterday for the purpose of making adequate arrangements “for food and shelter of poor and needy people including migrant labourers be made at the place of their work.” The notification has also stated that States have sufficient funds under this head.
The notification also discloses that states were told to ensure timely payment of wages to the labourers. The notification also made it clear that “House rent should not be demanded from the labourers for this period.” It also called for action against those forcefully evicting students.
Centre takes note of the exodus of migrant workers. Says States have been asked to enforce lockdown strictly. And that those found travelling during this period will be subject to minimum 14 days of quarantine in government quarantine facilities. pic.twitter.com/OVcoA4sA0W
— Vasudha Venugopal (@vasudha_ET) March 29, 2020
However, the chaotic situation in Delhi and what the people gathered at the Delhi-UP border say clearly reveals that none of these directives were complied with by the Kejriwal government, which has landed these migrants in the midst of a virtual massacre. Imagine one of these people carrying the virus and before we know the entire crowds could get infected, further carrying it to the interiors of Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre had announced a huge relief package, and now all that Kejriwal had to do was to cooperate with the Modi government in keeping the people where they were. The Centre had announced a slew of measures easing the burden of the states, but Kejriwal still failed and failed miserably at that.
#WATCH Delhi CM: One person from Bihar buys a ticket to Delhi for Rs 500, returns after availing free treatment worth Rs 5 lakhs. While it makes us happy as they are people of our own country, but Delhi has its own capacity. How can Delhi serve people of entire country? (29.09) pic.twitter.com/qW1hvryPnK
— ANI (@ANI) September 30, 2019
In fact, from the kind of defamatory statement that Raghav Chadda gave against the Yogi government and Chief Minister Kejriwal’s derogatory stance about the Purvanchalis, it seems as if the Coronavirus outbreak was used as an opportunity to push migrant labourers out of the National Capital at a time when Kejriwal government should have taken special care to ensure that such a crisis is not triggered. With this, the Delhi Chief Minister has manufactured a huge disaster-in waiting for Uttar Pradesh that can hit the most populous state of India very soon.