Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said that the government has made arrangements to shift hundreds of migrant workers and daily-wage earners who were living on the banks of the Yamuna river in Delhi during the nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus.
The government took note of the matter on Wednesday, after Scroll.in reported that the workers were confined to the garbage- and excreta-laden shores of the river near Kashmere Gate and allegedly not provided food by the administration after their shelters were set ablaze on Saturday. “No food has been served to us since the night of the fire,” a middle-aged man, who requested anonymity, said. “For two nights, I slept on water.”
However, the Aam Aadmi Party government had been running a community kitchen to feed between 3,500 and 9,000 people before the shelters for the homeless were set ablaze, allegedly by disgruntled inmates.
NH Sharma, the director of night shelters at the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, told Scroll.in the community kitchen stopped functioning and instead the district magistrate’s office was supplying cooked meals to those stranded on the Yamuna bank. However, several workers told Scroll.in that no food had been served by the authorities since Saturday – until Tuesday afternoon, when a food truck appeared down the road from the shelters, leading to a long queue.
“Workers have gathered at Yamuna Ghat,” Kejriwal tweeted. “Arrangements for their stay and food have been made. They have been ordered to shift immediately.”
The chief minister claimed there was no shortage of food and urged people to inform the government if anyone was hungry or homeless.
On Tuesday, the Delhi Rozi Adhikar Abhiyan had also written to Kejriwal saying the supply of food to the migrant workers was disrupted at the Yamuna bank. “Thousands of migrant workers have congregated at the shelters, which already houses many homeless people,” they said in a letter. “Despite this, adequate provisions for food supply has not been made nor have additional centres been set up.”
Scroll.in also accessed Delhi government’s acknowledgement of the letter.
A video by the AAP showed the migrant workers being shifted to Delhi government schools in buses after reports highlighted their living conditions.
Abhinandita Dayal Mathur, advisor to Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and currently supervising the relief operations, told NDTV that around 307 people were moved from the Yamuna bank on Tuesday. “Over 200 are remaining. Steps being taken to move them to a safe house. Gurudwara has been in touch with the district magistrate and food is being provided regularly.”
It is not clear why the community kitchens stopped catering to the poor even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 3 on Tuesday.