Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pandemic Refugees

Thousands flee New Delhi as the 21-day lockdown effectively puts workers living off daily earnings out of work.  After Prime Minister Modi announced the lockdown, construction projects, taxi services, housekeeping and other informal sector employment came to a sudden halt.

India's most vulnerable fear dying not of the COVID-19 virus but rather of starvation and are fleeing the capital to return to their home towns and villages.

"Many migrant workers feel they have no choice but to walk home. They are walking along highways, along train tracks with no access to food, no access to basic sanitation," said Al Jazeera's Elizabeth Puranam.

Ram Bhajan Nisar, a painter, his wife and two children - aged five and six - were part of a group of 15 who set off by foot from New Delhi to Gorakhpur, a village in Uttar Pradesh state on the border with Nepal some 650km (400 miles) away.
"How can we eat if we don't earn?" Nisar asked, adding that his family had enough to make it four or five days without work, but not the full three weeks of the stay-at-home order.
Regional governments were advised  to set up tented accommodation along highways for migrant workers and establish relief camps in cities.Authorities sent a fleet of buses to the outskirts of New Delhi on Saturday to meet an exodus of migrant workers desperately trying to reach their native villages. Delhi's homeless shelters are overflowing with people and the state government has decided to convert public schools into shelters from Sunday.

The government of Uttar Pradesh, which borders New Delhi, sent a fleet of public and private buses with room for 52,000 people to a highway overpass area on the Delhi border where thousands were stranded

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