Exodus of migrants from Delhi: But UP police drive them back

Home Ministry asked states to stop exodus of migrant labourers from cities. UP Police dutifully stopped labourers and forced them to turn back and return to Delhi,again by foot,late on Friday night

Exodus of migrants from Delhi: But UP police drive them back

NH Web Desk

While the national capital wore a deserted look on the fourth day of the country-wide lockout, a steady stream of poor, desperate people kept walking towards the Delhi-UP border. With no transport available and with no work and daily payments, their only option, they said, was to try and walk home. They braved a light drizzle, carried children on their shoulder and marched on.

The exodus continued throughout Friday and had not stopped till late in the evening. Heart-rending videos flooded the social media but the Union Government passed the buck to the states. In an advisory, MHA asked the states to arrange for food and shelter for the labourers and stop them where they were working. A warning to the builders and the contractors earlier might have worked better but the advisory was too little and too late.

Around midnight, news agency ANI, believed to be close to the Government, reported that the labourers had ben stopped by UP Police and sent back to Delhi. In the video tweeted by the agency, people can be seen walking back—with the Government having made no arrangement to transport them. The quixotic action followed a day of outrage on social media. This is the video the agency posted close to midnight:

Earlier in the day, BJP national president J.P. Nadda had added to the outrage by publicizing that he had ‘donated’ ten food packets during the day. He claimed that one crore BJP workers would feed five people each every day and hence the party would be feeding five Crore people daily.

But BJP workers clearly did not see the thousands of migrant labourers streaming out of Delhi because none of them got the promised food packet. They were hungry, many confessed, and had no drinking water either to last the long journey home. There was outrage and helplessness voiced by civil society. There was also anger at the indifference and incompetence of the Government.

“This Lockdown without thinking through its consequences is making a mockery of social distancing. This cure is worse than the disease,” tweeted lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan.

The tragedy and incompetence is compounded by the fact that the Union Government till March, 2019 had collected Rs 45 thousand Crore by way of cess meant for the welfare of construction workers. It had, however, spent only 19 thousand Crore, pointed out Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, in a letter to the Prime Minister, while pleading that the money be released in these dire times.

Gurdeep Singh Sappal, Editor-in-Chief Swaraj Express TV and Hind Kisan tweeted after watching the exodus, “ This is tragic. Unprecedented back migration to village. No transport, just on foot. Govts need to wake up to the dimension of this human suffering. I drove about three km from Delhi Gate, NH24. It’s an unending stream, in light drizzling rain.

Nidheesh Tyagi, senior journalist who has worked for BBC and Network 18 tweeted to say, “ If these were Kanwariyas, the same govt would have provided them all facilities (transport, food, shelter, DJ, flowers). Last time a senior police officer was throwing flowers from chopper. Just because they are running for their lives and not for religion, they don't matter.”

Veteran TV journalist Barkha Dutt interviewed several families fleeing Delhi and tweetd, “Krishna carries his 5 year old child Pankaj on his back. "We'll walk 700 kilometres to Madhya Pradesh, if needed; Where else should we go?”

“The tragedy of migrant workers. We focus is on women & children. This is the story of 8 year old Kajal who's walked 37 Kms & 8 hours when we meet her. Her family says they've been walking since dawn & may have to walk all the way to Lucknow. These are small children,” she tweeted while posting another video.

“If this is still happening despite all the media reports & social media outrage, understand that govts don’t care about the poorest of the poor. Fleets of buses will be made available to transport people for political rallies. But they will never be used for the poor. Shameful!”, tweeted journalist Rohini Singh.

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