New Delhi: Fervent appeals by Delhi government leaders to lakhs of people – who came out on the roads for a journey by foot to their native villages in far away districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states – to return to their homes went largely unheeded.
Though the government has begun providing food to nearly four lakh people in over 500 shelters and schools, and has assured people of a regular supply of food, most migrant workers have preferred to proceed with their journey.
CM assures of all assistance, appeals to people to stay
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was at the forefront of making arrangements and appeals. He urged people, who were flooding into Delhi from its satellite towns and those beginning the journey from the city city itself, to change their plans. He assured them that the government would take care of their needs.
He tweeted that Hunger Relief Centres have been opened in 568 schools and 238 shelters and arrangements to provide meals to four lakh people have been made.
हमारी दिल्ली में कोई भूखा नहीं सोएगा। आज से हम 568 स्कूल और 238 शेल्टरों द्वारा रोजाना 4 लाख लोगों को भोजन खिलाने के लिए तैयार है
आप सब से मेरी अपील है, ज़्यादा से ज़्यादा लोगों को Hunger Relief Centres के बारे में बताएं और नजदीकी सेंटर पर लोगों को पहुंचने में उनकी मदद करें। https://t.co/9r4ZGkp1Wu
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 28, 2020
Addressing the public via a digital conference, Kejriwal also said that government’s flying squads have also begun supplying food packets. He asked people leaving the city to stay, stressing on the fact that migrating in huge groups would expose them to the risk of contracting COVID-19. He also lauded the role of several social and religious organisations like Radha Soami Satsang, ISKCON, Akshay Patra and various gurudwara associations for helping in the preparation and distribution of food.
Kejriwal said he has also spoken to his MLAs to ask people to stay and not begin the arduous journey home.
‘Lockdown is absolutely necessary’
Backing the decision for a nationwide lockdown, he said, it was “absolutely necessary” to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus virus. Making a mention of how several developed countries have been “worst hit” by the virus, and how even UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles have tested positive, he said that “this shows us the intensity of the outbreak”.
On what may lie ahead if warnings are not heeded, Kejriwal said he has seen how even in Europe “there are not enough ventilators and beds in those hospitals, that they have started prioritising the lives of the young over the elders.”
“We have to stay at home to stay safe,” he said.
Sisodia visited Ghazipur border, urged people to stay
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia visited Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border and urged people leaving the city to reconsider their decision. He also tweeted that the Delhi government has provided around 100 buses, and the Uttar Pradesh government nearly 200 buses, to facilitate travel. He urged them to follow the precautions related to the lockdown, stressing on the fact that the threat of coronavirus is very real.
दिल्ली सरकार की क़रीब 100 और उत्तर प्रदेश सरकार की क़रीब 200 बसें दिल्ली से पैदल जाने की कोशिश कर रहे लोगों को लेकर जा रही है. फिर भी सभी से मेरी अपील है कि लॉकडाउन का पालन करें. कोरोना का असर नियंत्रित रखने के लिए यही समाधान है. बाहर निकलने में कोरोना का पूरा ख़तरा है.
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) March 28, 2020
In a TV interview, Sisodia also assured that the government was prepared to feed 20 lakh migrants and would not let anyone stay hungry.
Clearly, this had no impact on many who started the long and arduous walk home, preferring to risk contracting coronavirus and their own safety and health along the way as compared to the uncertainty of a financially bleak situation and the fear of starvation if they stayed put.
‘Livelihood of people affected by lockdown’
Delhi minister Rajendra Pal Gautam also visited Anand Vihar where lakhs of people had descended for their onward journey to their villages and town in UP, Bihar and other states. Gautam urged a large number of people to stay in the city, saying that the Delhi government has made special arrangements for food and other basic necessities in various shelters.
Gautam cautioned people that by travelling like this, they may be putting their own lives and those of their loved ones back home. “The purpose of the lockdown is to stop the transmission of this virus. We are extremely concerned about the health of the citizens and it is my appeal to everyone, to not put their lives on risk. We are here to look after their food, shelter and other necessities. We request them to stay indoors during this crucial time and go out only when it is necessary,” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that “several of these migrants are daily wage labourers and amid the lockdown, their livelihood has been adversely affected”.
71 lakh people to get 7.5 kg free ration
Meanwhile, in order to improve availability of dry rations, the Delhi government also began supplying ration through 1,000 shops. Under the scheme, 71 lakh people will be provided with 7.5 kg of free ration.
The government said at these ration shops, a representative of the area legislator would be deployed and tasked with ensuring that social distancing is practiced.
Nearly 28,000 passes issued for essential service providers, vehicles
Revenue minister Kailash Gahlot said the Delhi Government has taken to issuing e-passes in large number to essential service providers. It said 26,447 e-passes have been issued to individuals and 1,364 for vehicles carrying essential commodities. Apart from this, 500 normal passes have also been released to vehicles carrying essential commodities.
The Delhi government also rejected 46,299 applications for e-passes and 47,914 applications are pending approval. The government said the e-passes can be applied through a helpline number 1031. “The Delhi government is working 24×7 to provide the e-passes to the people who are providing essential services. We are providing as many passes as possible and in every possible way, we are ensuring that all essential services providers get the passes,” Gahlot said.