New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Ten days after IANS highlighted the plight of the migrant labourers residing in the Yamuna river bed near the Kashmere Gate bus terminal, the Delhi government on Wednesday finally asked the Delhi Police to get the area vacated and take the migrants to a shelter home.
Delhi Police reached the Kashmere Gate area in the afternoon with buses to relocate the migrant labourers, who were residing in the Yamuna riverbed just below the flyover that connects east Delhi’s Geeta Colony with the Kashmere Gate Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT).
The action comes exactly 10 days after IANS visited the Yamuna riverbed in the night and highlighted the plight of the migrant labourers, who were stranded here with no money and food after the 21-day nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of novel coronavirus was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 23 in his special address to the nation.
Over 2,000 migrant labourers were forced to stay on the riverbed were living in pathetic situation with no facilities of drinking water and toilets. They got food during the day and night when it arrived at the nearby night shelters.
The Yamuna riverbed where these migrant labourers were staying for more than 10 days is just two kilometres away from the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal.
In a series of tweets, Kejriwal said while about one million people are being provided cooked meals, some are so poor that they are unaware about the government schemes.
“Migrants gathered at the Yamuna Ghat. Arrangements have been done for their stay and food. They have been ordered to shift immediately. There is no shortage of food or shelters. If anyone is hungry or homeless, then let us know,” Kejriwal said.
He also thanked the media for highlighting the issue.
“We are feeding about 10 lakh people daily. Free ration was provided to 75 lakh people. Made arrangements for shelters for thousands of homeless. People are so poor, many do not even know about the government arrangements. Thank you media for telling us about such poor people. Government arrangements will be made available to every poor,” he added.
Speaking to media, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that on orders of the Chief Minister, all the migrant workers were taken to the night shelters set up across the city and they shall be kept there now and food will be provided to all of them.
If any worker anywhere in Delhi faces any problem, the government will take care of them, he said.
Delhi BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Praveen Shankar Kapoor, however, slammed the city government.
Mishra, in a tweet attaching the IANS video report from the Kashmere Gate area, said, “This video is of April 5 reported by IANS news agency. Kejriwal falsely tweeted that the migrant workers gathered today and media also highlighted the issue thereafter and they were removed immediately. Food, ration, shelter in Delhi, everything is just a lie.”
Kapoor also took to Twitter and said, “So Sisodiaji you accept that these thousands of people were left unattended by Kejriwal government.”
IANS was first to report and highlight how these migrants slept with the stray dogs nearby them and without following the government’s guidelines of maintaining social distancing.
The Yamuna riverbed where these were forced to live is close to 10 night shelter homes run by the Delhi government, of which few were got burnt down last week.
Speaking to IANS, Sunil Aledia, founder member for the Centre for Holistic Development, who works for the homeless people, said: “Thanks to IANS for covering the story first on April 5 and showing the plight of the migrant labourers that has woken the Delhi government.”
“About 2,500 people, who are unable to find place in the night shelters in the Kashmere Gate area, were forced to sleep in the open.”
He said as the government has now taken to a safe place and now there will be very less chances of people contacting Covid-19.
Asked about number of people housed in each night shelter, he said: “The night shelters with capacity of lodging 50 people have now been allocated 16 beds each as per the social distancing norm, thus, bringing down the number of occupants to less than half.”
So, though the number of the people, looking for a shelter in the area, had swelled up in following the nationwide lockdown, the 10 night shelters in the area with a total capacity of lodging 500 persons can only accommodate a mere 160.
Aledia also pointed out that the Delhi government has not arranged for screening or health camps for labourers residing near the Kashmere Gate area.
“If someone gets ill, then it will become problematic for everyone,” he said.
On April 5, IANS Correspondent visited the site in night and showed that how hundreds of people had started making a beeline for night shelters near Yamuna river to spend their nights in relative comfort. However, scores of others have to shift to the river bed under the open skies owing to the overcrowded space, flouting government’s directions of maintaining social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some, who could not manage place at the night shelters or on the river bed also rolled out their beddings at the memorial to Delhi’s first Lt Governor A.N. Jha, opposite Kashmere Gate ISBT.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)