A day after thousands of migrant workers thronged Anand Vihar bus terminus on the Delhi-U.P. border to go back to their villages, hundreds attempted to leave again on March 29 but were blocked by police barricades some distance from the bus station.
“I came here in the morning and have been waiting for police to let us go ahead, but it seems like they would not allow us,” said Joginder Singh, 40, a fruit merchant who came to Anand Vihar terminus with his family in the morning to catch a bus for his hometown Moradabad.
“They are beating people who try to move further. I am here with my wife and 11-year-old son and we can’t afford to be beaten up by police. Now we have only one option — go back to our home in Shahdara’s Vishwas Nagar area,” Mr. Singh said.
Many people were seen trying to walk on the railway track at Anand Vihar to go their home towns in Uttar Pradesh.
Also read | Similar stories, very personal tragedies
Since the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24 to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, all business and economic activity has come to a virtual standstill, leaving migrant workers with no work. Most of them are daily wage earners who live a hand to mouth existence in big cities, and cannot afford to pay rent or buy food unless they earn.
“If police open the borders, we can walk all the way to Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh some 100 kilometres away. Due to this lockdown, my work got affected. From past one week, I have nothing to do. I sell fruits, for which I have to go to Ghazipur mandi and police are not allowing us to go there.
“I live in a rented accommodation and it will become very difficult for us to give rent and bear us daily expenses. We can somehow manage these things in Moradabad,” Mr. Singh said.
On Saturday, thousands of daily wagers and labourers from Delhi, Haryana and even Punjab reached Anand Vihar, Ghazipur and Ghaziabad’s Lal Kuan areas after arduous treks on foot in a bid to ride buses to their respective native places.
According to police, around 10,000 to 15,000 people had assembled at Anand Vihar on March 28. Around 60 to 70 buses ferried as many passengers as they could. Till midnight, around 500 more buses were supposed to reach Delhi and evacuate the migrant workers.
However, there is no clarity on how many were actually sent on the buses and how many were dispersed by police.
By March 29 morning, the area had been cleared and Delhi police said no transit is being allowed from Anand Vihar bus terminus. Instead barricades were placed on all entry points into the terminus at a distance of about 500 metres.
Mohammad Anwar (30), who works in a boutique, said he came to Delhi two weeks ago from Sitamarhi in Bihar and had no idea that the situation will turn like this.
“I am alone here in the national capital. My parents live in Sitamarhi. Police are not allowing us to catch a bus. My health is not well and I can’t walk to Sitamarhi. I have no other option and will go back to my room in east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar area,” Mr. Anwar said.
The distance between Delhi to Sitamarhi is 950 kilometres, which would take around four days to cover on foot.
The death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 25 and the total number of cases to 979 on March 29.
“The situation for the daily labourers like us is becoming worse day by day as we have lost our source of income. We do not have money for rent and food. During the coronavirus, the government is asking people to maintain social distancing. The situation in shelter homes is even more pathetic and we do not want to go there,” said Mohammad Imran, 25, a native of Azamgarh in U.P.