Is India experiencing a humanitarian crisis alongside the coronavirus pandemic?

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Mar 29, 2020, 03.52 PM(IST) Edited By: Bharat Sharma

Migrants in Anand Vihar Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Many labourers are attempting to travel hundreds of kilometres, some on foot, back to their hometowns

The COVID-19 outbreak in India could be fast evolving into a humanitarian crisis as the 21-day lockdown in the country has triggered a massive exodus of migrant labourers.

On foot?

Many of them are attempting to travel hundreds of kilometres, some on foot, back to their hometowns.

In the National Capital Region, the situation has snowballed into a mass gathering of migrants at the bus terminus.

Hundreds and thousands of migrants are waiting for the bus which could take them back to their homes.

While India remains in a lockdown, buses remain the only public transport still available, that too with limited coverage and services.

Most of these labourers belong to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

They have set out after hearing rumours that buses were available at the Delhi-UP border.

The situation is the most precarious at Anand Vihar. The bus terminus at Anand Vihar connects Delhi to the eastern belt of India.

Severe overcrowding has taken place at the terminus with migrants choosing to travel back to their hometowns.

The police were seen turning back a large group of such migrant workers.


State and centre kick start relief measures

There were similar scenes at many interstate checkpoints. The Uttar Pradesh government has now arranged for 1,000 buses to ferry the stranded migrant labourers.

The UP state government has also directed officials to ensure proper food and water supply to the labourers.

The Home Ministry has issued a strict advisory to all state governments on the matter.

Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to some chief ministers, urging them to stop this mass exodus immediately.

In the Gautam Buddha Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, as per the administration there will be no house rent for migrant labourers and workers for one month.

Also read: Indian automobile sector releases funds to aid containment of COVID-19

The central government has also made appeals to migrants to stay wherever they are.

The centre has additionally asked states to ensure that migrant workers are provided food, clean water and other basic amenities, free of cost.

The advisory issued to states calls for a joint approach with NGOs and civil society in the loop.

And most importantly to make sure that the labourers are aware of these measures in the first place.

The Delhi government has made arrangements to provide food to migrant workers at the especially made shelters.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the government has made arrangements to feed four lakh people on a daily basis.

He also said that members of the flying squad were going to different places to hand over food packets to the needy.

In Gujarat - the government has warned of police action if labourers are found migrating on foot.

The chief minister has asked all district administrations to make arrangements for free food and accommodation.


NGOs not far behind

Several NGOs have also stepped in: A food distribution camp has been set up near the Nizamuddin Railway Station in the national capital.

The needy are first provided with hand sanitisers and then provided with food.

Also read: 'I'm with you', assures PM Modi during his coronavirus-centred 'Mann Ki Baat' address

The central government has asked states to undertake regular health check-up drives for the migrants at the relief camps.

States have been allowed to avail any amount of funds from the State Disaster Response Fund.