Thousands of migrant workers from northern states were seen scrambling to board buses to get home at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border on Saturday as a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus stripped them of livelihoods and shelter. The nationwide lockdown entered its fifth day on Sunday.
The Uttar Pradesh government had arranged for nearly 1,200 special buses after distressing images emerged of exhausted workers marching home in the absence of public transport. However, the buses made available on Saturday were too few – there were 10,000 to 15,000 people at the Anand Vihar bus depot at 9.30 pm, and only 60 to 70 buses, Shahdara Deputy Commissioner of Police Dinesh Kumar Gupta told PTI. More than 500 more buses were due to reach by midnight, he said.
Anand Vihar is a major interstate bus terminal close to Delhi’s border with Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh. On the other side of the border is the Kaushambi bus station, from where buses travel to other parts of Uttar Pradesh.
There was a stampede-like situation at some points, with Delhi Police officers on standby carrying lathis and loudspeakers. A baton-charge by police on migrants was also reported. Here are some scenes from Anand Vihar and Kaushambi:
Videos on social media showed huge crowds scrambling to board buses amid the looming threat of spread of infection.
The Delhi government urged migrants to stay in Delhi but offered 570 buses to drop them to the border if they wanted to leave.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also shared a video of the ‘exodus’ and attacked the government for not having an emergency plan in place.