COVID-19 lockdown: Many stranded in Delhi without means of sustenance; some walk back home

New Delhi, Mar 26 (PTI) With road and rail traffic suspended due to a nationwide lockdown to combat coronavirus, many people, including migrant workers, are stranded in the national capital without any means of sustenance, while a few are making a road journey to their home towns and villages.

Among those who are making a road journey, mostly on foot, include Bramhpal Singh.

Singh (24), a native of Pauri Garhwal district in Uttarakhand, left Gurgaon, where he works in a roadside restaurant to return to his village, nearly 300 kilometres from here, to visit his sick mother.

He walked from Gurgaon to Dhaula Kuan, took some rest, boarded random DTC buses to reach the Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal in east Delhi.

Singh pleaded bus drivers to let him board the bus as he is not from the essential services category.

'I want to reach my village at the earliest,' Singh said who started working at the roadside restaurant barely a fortnight ago for Rs 8,000 but got a call from his brother informing about this mother's ill-health.

'I will somehow reach Meerut and then again walk to Uttarakhand if I don't get any mode of transport,' he said, carrying a sack on his shoulder.

According to GPS tracker, Singh will probably take two-and-half days if he goes on foot.

Jagat Pal (36), a rickshaw driver in Mayapuri, is also among the stranded ones and is unable to go back to his village.

'I have no work so there is money. I and other rickshaw drivers are borrowing money from others for food,' Pal, who hails from Pratapgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, said.

Pal said he should have left along with 15 others on Sunday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The 15 work as rickshaw drivers and daily wage earners.

'They (the 15) have still not reached Pratapgarh after two days,' he said.

The distance between Delhi and Pratapgarh is more than 700 kilometres. According to GPS tracker, if one goes on foot, he would take 127 hours (five and half days) to reach their destination.

Not just, Pal, hundreds of migrants workers have been stranded in Delhi without any work or means for sustenance.

The Anand Vihar ISBT has many stranded like Suresh Chaudhary, who are heading back as there is no work in the national capital.   'We have locked ourselves in our room as there is no work.... Our little savings are also drying. We don't know how long we can sustain ourselves, he said.

Chaudhary, who shares a room with five other workers, said, 'I am stuck in a place which is worse than even jails. Even convicts in jail are getting better food, facilities than us. I am managing with whatever little money I have earned in the previous week.' Dev Pal, a resident of Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh, said he came to the national capital a couple of days ago to see his ailing uncle.

'My uncle was unwell and I came here in east Delhi's Seemapuri area on Sunday to see him. Now, I got a call from Badaun that my mother is sick. I came out of my uncle's house and have been waiting for a bus at Apsara Border till Anand Vihar for the past one hour. A couple of buses have passed but no one is willing to stop. I have to go to Badaun somehow,' Pal said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a complete lockdown of the entire country for 21 days in an unprecedented drastic measure to try halt the spread of coronavirus.

The death toll due to COVID-19 in India rose to 16 and the number of positive cases increased by nearly 90 to 694, according to the health ministry. PTI NIT PR SMN KJ KJ