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Covid crisis: Migrant workers cite lack of trust in govt, loss of livelihood as Delhi announces lockdown, exodus begins

On April 19, after the Kejriwal government announced a week-long lockdown in Delhi, a large number of migrant workers gathered at the Anand Vihar bus terminal, flouting social distancing norms and hurrying to go home.

On Monday (April 20), migrant workers in the National Capital slammed the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for their mass exodus to their native villages. The development came hours after the Delhi government imposed a lockdown in the State/Union territory for a period of 6 days, starting from 10 pm yesterday to 5 am on April 26.

Following his announcement, a large gathering of migrant workers was spotted at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal. They were seen waiting for buses to return to their hometowns, keeping in mind the inconvenience caused during the first nationwide lockdown in March last year. The police failed to manage the crowd where migrants were seen flouting social distancing guidelines.

While speaking on the matter, migrant labourers lamented, “We’re daily wagers, CM should have given us some time before announcing it. It takes us Rs 200 to reach home, but they’re charging Rs 3,000-4,000 now, how will we go home?”

Migrant workers slam Arvind Kejriwal government, head back to their native villages amidst lockdown

While speaking to India Today, a 7-year-old son of a migrant worker named Shankar emphasised, “Due to lockdown, my father lost his job and he beat my mother out of frustration. He’s a labourer in a company. If the lockdown gets extended, our lives are going to be miserable in Delhi. Last time we had to starve for days. So that is why my mother and I are leaving for Bihar, we don’t want a repeat of last year.”

The India Today report quoted another worker named Ramesh Kumar, who informed that he had been waiting for the bus for a ride back home with his wife and 3 kids. “I am a daily-wage earner. I do painting and small fixing works at construction sites. Now my owner told me that he can not employ me until the situation gets better. We know that the lockdown will get extended like last time, but this time we are not going to wait in Delhi for the government to leave us to die,” he said.

“We don’t trust any of the governments anymore. I am leaving for Gonda in UP with my family. I am not scared of Covid, I’m scared that my kids will die of hunger if the situation doesn’t get better in Delhi. So leaving is the best option right now,” Kumar further added. Another migrant worker, Murari lamented that he had no job in Delhi. He informed that his earnings fell by a drastic margin ever since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

“Somehow I came back to Delhi in February thinking that the worst is over and I will start a new job. But with another lockdown and the situation in hospitals, there are no hopes left. And in a situation like this, I would want to die in front of my family back home, not alone here. Because that would be the only option left if I stay back,” Murari concluded.

Arvind Kejriwal cites ‘short duration’ to justify the lockdown

Meanwhile, the Arvind Kejriwal-led-Delhi government had requested the daily wage migrant labourers to stay in Delhi instead. In his defence, he cited that the lockdown is of shorter duration and that the government will take care of their needs. As of December 19, Delhi has recorded a total of 74,941 active cases and 12,121 fatalities.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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