Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

Coronavirus | With nil hopes at Zero Point, migrants face police batons

Police personnel confront stranded commuters below the “Zero Point” on the Yamuna Expressway, ask them to find a relief camp instead.

Police personnel were seen tracking down, confronting and occasionally using their batons to “persuade” hapless migrant workers on the Yamuna Expressway to go to shelter homes here on Monday.

In most cases, however, the workers who failed to find transport to their home towns were told to find their own way to the shelter homes without being given transport or escorted. Nor were they provided any assurances, let alone guarantees, that they would not be chased away by police personnel deployed along the route.

The police resumed “strict enforcement” of the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 after two days when the workers were allowed to return to their hometowns across Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar.

Turned away

Those who were unsuccessful in doing so over the weekend, like Ram Kumar and his family of seven, which included four children, sought to try their luck at the “Zero Point” on the expressway, but were turned away. It later transpired that in addition to the “strict enforcement” of the lockdown, the reason for such police action was a proposed visit by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to Gautam Buddha University in the area.

“I was engaged at a factory in Gurugram and couldn’t make it in time till here on Sunday. We reached only this morning; the police hit us twice with their sticks and asked us to find some camp which they have set up for us. They didn’t tell us where exactly it is, though,” Mr. Kumar of Firozabad, near Agra, said.

He and his family were among a dozen people who had, somehow, made their way to the location. A few minutes into their wait, however, a police van ascended the elevated entry onto the highway, the personnel aboard it got down, walked over to the motley group and confronted them before chasing them away. While the others, mainly young men, were able to sprint away to save themselves from being detained, Mr. Kumar, however, was caned twice.

Location of shelter

“My family and I have been engaged in work at Gurugram; how would we know where the location of the shelter which they mumbled while confronting us is,” he asked.

Below the “Zero Point”, the same police personnel confronted Satbir Singh and Anil Singh, who were hoping to travel to Mathura. “We tried to go back day before yesterday and the day prior to that, but there were no buses available or there was no space on those which were plying. So we thought we will try to go back again today. We didn’t know the lockdown was back in place,” Mr. Satbir, now an out-of-work factory hand, said.

Anil, Mr. Satbir’s colleague at the same factory, said the police personnel who confronted them merely pointed towards the opposite end of the highway and asked them to “go to the shelter”.

“They didn’t even tell us where to go. Who do we ask where we are supposed to go without being beaten up,” he asked.

When asked where they were supposed to go, one of the police personnel told this correspondent, “There are camps which are being set up. These people will find them themselves.”


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Printable version | May 7, 2022 2:29:18 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/coronavirus-lockdown-returns-at-yamuna-expressway-as-migrants-struggle-to-find-means-to-travel-to-hometowns/article61956100.ece