India is in the midst of battling a resurgent wave of the coronavirus outbreak as the country continues to report a sharp rise in the number of new cases. While the second wave of COVID-19 has affected many states of the country, it has most severely affected the states of Maharashtra and Delhi, which are among the top contributors to the recent upsurge in the coronavirus caseloads.
In the light of the worsening coronavirus crisis in the national capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today announced a strict 6-day lockdown in Delhi. The lockdown, he said, will come into effect at 10 pm on Monday, and be in force till 5 am next Monday.
“Delhi’s health system has reached its limits. I don’t say that the system has collapsed but it has reached its limits,” Kejriwal announced in a press briefing. The AAP supremo reiterated that Delhi was facing the fourth wave of the pandemic, remarking that the city’s health system has reached its limits. “I won’t say that the health system has collapsed but it has reached its limits,” he said.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement of imposing a lockdown came a day after nearly every third sample in the national capital tested positive for the coronavirus disease. Delhi on Sunday reported 25,462 new cases, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. The spike in cases is particularly sharper this year, and Sunday’s cases are 812.6% higher than the number of new cases on April 1.
Migrant workers make a beeline to leave Delhi in the wake of Kejriwal’s lockdown announcement
No sooner did Arvind Kejriwal announce a rigorous lockdown in Delhi, panic set among scores of migrant labourers and they queued up at various terminal stations across the city to return to their native places.
After having borne the brunt of the first coronavirus induced lockdown, when many of them had to walk all the way to their villages, the migrant labourers this around did not want to take any chances of being stuck in a city amidst a lockdown and where the infection is galloping at a breakneck speed.
Delhi: Migrant workers gather at Anand Vihar Terminal to return to their native places— ANI (@ANI) April 19, 2021
“I do a job in Delhi and work is yet to resume, so it’s better to return home than to sit here”, says Navin, a native of Nepal. pic.twitter.com/i47VgbeIIA
As migrant labourers prepared themselves to leave the national capital, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made a desperate appeal to the workers to not leave the national capital. Kejriwal implored the workers to stay put, alleging that he is hopeful that this time the lockdown would not be extended.
“I appeal to you with folded hands. It’s a small lockdown, only for six days. Don’t leave Delhi and go. I’m very hopeful that we won’t need to further extend the lockdown…Govt will take care of you,” Kejriwal said.
However, as the coronavirus outbreak in Delhi comes to a head, the migrant labourers have little faith in assurances made by Kejriwal, who had days ago stated that there won’t be any further lockdowns in Delhi.
At a time when the infections in Delhi are surging at an alarming rate, the migrant labourers have decided to go back to their natives, lest they get stuck again in the middle of a lockdown. The swift reaction to head to their native places back is spurred by the unpleasant experience they had had in the previous lockdown in 2020 when they were forced by the Delhi government to walk all the way to the state border where UP government buses were waiting to ferry them to their respective villages and towns. Many of them even streamed all the way back to their villages on foot.
The sense of helplessness and anxiety once again seemed to engulf the migrant labourers after the Delhi chief minister announced a 6-day lockdown earlier today. The migrant labourers, having endured the difficulties in the past, no longer want to position themselves in the same predicament—once bitten, twice shy.
The Delhi government has been wavering on its stand on lockdown in the last few days. After claiming that Delhi won’t have a lockdown, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal dropped subtle hints at enforcing restrictions if the cases in the city continue to swell. However, with no clarity on how long the lockdown will be in place and no announcements by Arvind Kejriwal to alleviate the economic hardships that accompany lockdowns, the migrant labourers have decided to proceed towards their native villages rather than heeding Delhi CM’s entreaties.
Maha Vikas Aghadi turns a blind eye to the plight of the migrant population in Maharashtra
Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal-led government is not the only administration that has abandoned the migrant labourers during such testing times. In the western state of Maharashtra, the migrant labourers were left to fend for themselves as the Maha Vikas Aghadi government announced a state-wide lockdown till April 30.
Even before the lockdown was announced in Maharashtra, which was pummelled by the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the mismanagement of crisis by the state government forced the migrant labourers to go back to their respective villages before the situation worsens.
As Maharashtra witnessed a resurgent second wave of COVID-19 outbreak, with daily coronavirus caseloads touching a new high, there was a palpable sense of panic set in among the migrant population that was arguably the worst-hit by the pandemic when it started in March last year. The growing uncertainty, coupled with the bungled handling of the outbreak, forced a raft of migrant labourers in the state to board buses and trains to get back to their native places before the imposition of an inevitable lockdown.
Several reports claimed that migrant labourers left Mumbai, Pune and other parts of Maharashtra for their native places, fearing a second round of complete lockdown in the state. A large number of migrant workers had flocked to CST and LTT stations in Mumbai to board a train back to their villages before they are stuck in the lockdown. Similar was the condition in Pune, where the hoteliers association claimed that 50 per cent of the migrant workers in the city were planning to go back.
After braving a tumultuous year, the migrant laborers were back in Maharashtra to pick up their lives once again that were upended by the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. As it turned out, their relief was short-lived as Maharashtra government announced a new lockdown, in a bid to stop the inexorable spread of the coronavirus. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray announced that the state would go under complete lockdown starting 8 pm from April 14 till the end of the month.
Just like the Delhi government’s shocking indifference to the plight of the migrant workers, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra also showed little concerns for the migrant population in its state.
The unfortunate exodus of migrant workers in Delhi and Maharashtra not only reflects the disastrous handling of the coronavirus outbreak by the respective state governments but also reveals that addressing the problems of the migrant population is not among their priorities.