Hundreds of migrant workers gathered at railway stations and bus terminals in national Capital Delhi on Monday to catch a ride back home after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a six-day lockdown in the city, PTI reported. The restrictions, which came into effect on Monday night, will stay in place till 5 am on April 26.
The migration of workers from Delhi continued on Tuesday morning as well.
The mass exodus of migrant workers from major cities had become a point of concern and deliberation during the nationwide lockdown in March 2020. With most modes of public transport shut down, thousands of migrant workers were left with the option of either ferrying rides on private vehicles with cramped spaces, or walk hundreds of kilometres on their way to hometowns. Many of them blamed the sudden announcement of the lockdown in March last year.
On Monday too, migrant workers said that Kejriwal should have given more time before announcing the measure.
“We are daily wagers, the chief minister should have given us some time before announcing the lockdown,” one of the migrant labourers told ANI. “It takes us Rs 200 to reach home, but they’re charging Rs 3,000-4,000 now, how will we go home?”
Others voiced concerns of losing work once again like last year, if a lockdown was imposed. “There is no work for us and no landlord or government will help us during lockdown,” another worker told ANI. “If there is further lockdown, we won’t be able to survive.”
Anil Prasad, 32, who runs a food stall in Noida in Uttar Pradesh told The Indian Express that he had gone back to his home in Jharkhand in March last year, and returned only in December. “But ever since cases began to rise, people have again stopped coming,” he said.
The workers decided to leave Delhi even as Kejriwal, while announcing the lockdown, assured them saying, “Main hoon na [I am there for you]”. In his message, Kejriwal requested migrant workers not to leave the city, pointing out that it was only a six-day curfew and promised that the government will take care of them.
HC raps Centre, Delhi government on migrant crisis
The Delhi High Court on Monday said that the Centre and AAP government miserably failed to think about migrant workers during last year’s lockdown, PTI reported.
Taking note of the restrictions imposed on Monday, the court said that the “lessons are taken from the past lockdown”.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was hearing a petition on Covid-19 testing and health infrastructure in the national Capital. The court had suo motu revived the petition which was disposed earlier, taking cognisance of the second wave of the pandemic.
“With the imposition of curfew, the daily wagers are again faced with a grim reality,” the court said. “Both the state and central governments have miserably failed. You left it to the good samaritans to come out of their houses and distribute food to the migrant labourers.”