Delhi: The migrant workers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh started reaching Ramleela Maidan on Sunday in the hope of finding transport that would take them to their homes in Bihar and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The district administration was using the huge ground only as a designated stop for boarding buses to the railway station. But word got around that it might be possible for the workers to secure some transport from there to reach their hometowns. Thousands of anxious workers who had started their long journey towards home on foot began crowding in the Maidan by Monday.
The meager shelter available at Ashok Vatika, named after the mythical forest, proved insufficient to provide shelter to the thousands of migrants under the scorching sun coupled with dusty winds that could easily penetrate through their masks.
Md. Salim who worked as a cook in a restaurant at Ghaziabad said, “ We are here to go home, not eat meals. I have to go back to Kishanganj and I have been asked to change the line thrice since morning.”
A common refrain, “What to do?” was used by the administrative officials who were occupying the center stage and were struggling to manage the sudden increase in the number of migrant workers.
As the workers tried to break the queue and move towards the center stage, the administrative officials could be heard threatening the workers, “taang tod denge tumhari”, followed by a request to sit under the shade and wait for their turn. But two tents could hardly hold more than 25 persons in them.
Neither the workers followed social distancing nor did the police try to enforce it. An official on the condition of anonymity said, “ The situation is such that if the constabulary uses force it might create a scene.” This meant that there was a low number of police force available on the ground to point workers in the right direction. In the presence of media, the officials were polite and the workers were encouraged to ask questions. Before the Additional District Magistrate(City) Shailendra Kumar Singh joined the group, there were some feeble cries of “murdabad”, but when he joined and listened to their grievances, it followed the shouts of “zindabad.” However, Mr. Singh was rendered speechless when one worker asked the reason behind making them wait in the scorching sun without any social distancing.
The public address system’s announcements were not always helpful. An official announced that people who did not have train passes could board buses but it resulted in confusion as people started forming queues in front of the buses that were supposed to take workers with train passes to the railway station. After this, the official was censured by his superiors and the public announcement system was switched off.
Trains and buses
District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey said that they have arranged three trains for Patna, Muzaffarpur, and Raxaul in Bihar and three for Varanasi, Azamgarh and Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh which will take around 9,000 workers daily to their homes and those workers who will be left will be sent by buses.
He said that the rush occurred because only 25% of the workers are registered on the Jansunwai portal. The remaining people who were walking towards their homes have been picked up from the roads by U.P. Police from different borders as the Chief Minister has said that no worker should be found walking.
Mr. Pandey said that they were trying their best to streamline the process. The people who were to leave for Bihar that day will be sent by 50 buses to the railway stations without the requirement of any pass.
The Ghaziabad police have also become very cautious in bringing people to the shelter homes from the highways after the SHO of Indirapuram was suspended when it was found that 16 workers in the Auriyya accident had boarded the vehicle from a place which fell into the jurisdiction of the Indirapuram police station.
The phrase “medical done” loosely stands for the fact that their temperature has been taken and has been asked for symptoms.
The situation came under control by evening when the National Disaster Response Force arrived at the Ramleela Maidan.
Meanwhile, the district administration said that only those people could turn up at the Ramleela Maidan who have registered themselves in the Jansunwai portal and have received an SMS, or else their presence would be considered a violation of the lockdown.