New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) Roads in Delhi remained largely empty on Tuesday with people staying home on the first day of mini lockdown imposed to check the surging COVID 19 cases, but scores of migrant workers headed to interstate bus terminals to leave for their hometowns, apprehending the curbs may be extended beyond April 26.
As the authorities got down to handle the situation, Lt Governor Anil Baijal appealed to the migrant workers to stay back, assuring them the government will take care of all their needs including food and shelter.
Principal Secretary (Home) and Special Commissioner of Police have been appointed nodal officers to deal with the situation.
However, scenes similar to last year's migrant exodus could be seen replaying at interstate bus terminals with thousands of migrant workers gathering there to catch a bus home.
Geeta Kumari, a migrant daily-wager from Nepal, apprehended the six-day-long lockdown might get extended and her family might run out of work and resources soon.
'What if the lockdown is extended? What if they completely stop construction activities for a longer period? What will we eat then? Last time we waited for the situation to get better but ultimately had to go back home anyway,' Kumari says as she waits with her family at the Kaushambi Bus depot, ready to leave the city.
'I have seven members in my family, including a senior citizen. During the last lockdown, we went to Nepal after the situation became worse. We returned around four to five months ago. We work as a daily labourers and do not have work due to the ongoing situation. We have no work back in our native place so we will have to come back but not sure when as the lockdown could be extended,' she told PTI.
Dharamvir Singh, 24, a native of Akbarpur near Lucknow, was looking for a bus to his hometown. He, however, had different reasons to go home.
'I work as a carpenter in west Delhi's Subhash Nagar. I have to go to my hometown as my sister is getting married next week. Earlier, I was planning to go there this weekend, but after the lockdown was announced by the government, my family told me to come as soon as possible. I somehow reached Anand Vihar to board a bus to Lucknow,' he said.
'I hope the situation does not deteriorate as I have to return for earning my livelihoods. We will be again out of work and there will again be a crisis,' he added.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday announced a six-day lockdown till 5 AM on April 26, saying the health system of Delhi was under extreme pressure and could collapse if strict action was not taken.
With only essential services and activities permitted during the period, few people ventured out as the roads remained empty. In residential areas too except for shops selling groceries, vegetables, there was no sign of usual times.
Appealing people to stay at home during the lockdown, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Tuesday said the decision was taken in view of their health and safety.
'The lockdown in Delhi has started today. This decision has been taken in view of your health and safety. Kindly cooperate with the government and stay home to keep safe from the infection,' Kejriwal tweeted.
The lockdown follows a weekend curfew imposed on Friday night. Earlier, the government had also enforced night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am, but the surging number of coronavirus cases remained unabated.
Delhi Police said the movement on the first day of lockdown was hassle-free, however, some people were challaned for stepping out of the homes unnecessarily.
At several areas in the city, police made announcement through loudspeakers, informing people about the lockdown announced by the government and asking resident to follow all coronavirus guidelines issued by the government.
A senior police officer said that people in emergency were facilitated and those who were roaming without a valid reason were fines. They were also sensitised by police regarding the guidelines on COVID-19.
Delhi Police personnel and senior officers from the districts were on ground 24x7 to enforce the lockdown, a senior police officer said.
With only essential services allowed during the lockdown, private offices and other establishments like shops, malls, weekly markets, manufacturing units, educational and coaching institutes, cinema halls, restaurants, bars, public parks, were closed giving a deserted look to the city.
The Delhi government, meanwhile, constituted a seven-member committee of senior officer to take measures for the welfare of migrant workers, construction workers and daily-wagers. PTI VIT NIT AMP GJS TIR TIR