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Chaos, confusion as migrant workers throng Anand Vihar bus terminus in hope to return home

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New Delhi, Mar 28: Scores of daily wage workers and labourers thronged to Delhi's bus terminals on Saturday with a hope to reach their homes, amid fear and uncertainty spreading across the country because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hundreds of migrant workers were seen queuing at Anand Vihar bus terminal, waiting for buses that would ferry them to their respective hometowns.

Representational Image

Social distancing norms seemed to have been discarded as they squeezed into the buses. Some wore face masks but most had handkerchiefs tied over their noses and mouths to protect them from the infection.

There were around 10,000 to 15,000 people at Anand Vihar at 9.30 pm on Saturday, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Dinesh Kumar Gupta said.

"There are around 60 to 70 buses. The passengers have been standing in queues and boarding them. Till midnight, around 500 more buses will reach Delhi," Gupta said.

Earlier in the day, the Uttar Pradesh government announced that it has arranged 1,000 buses to ferry migrant labourers stranded in the border districts owing to a countywide lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government started converting schools in the Ghazipur area into night shelters to accommodate stranded migrant workers amid the lockdown imposed across the country to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The 21-day lockdown imposed from Tuesday midnight has triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities in several states to their villages. Hundreds of migrant workers belonging to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have gathered in Ghazipur and nearby areas of the Delhi-UP border.

"We have started converting schools (in Ghazipur) into night shelters. We have made arrangements if they (migrant workers) want to stay at night shelters," Sisodia told reporters.

"Emotionally, they want to go back to their homes. It will not be right if we forcefully stop them," he said. At the same time, the deputy chief minister appealed to migrant workers to not leave Delhi as sufficient arrangements have been made for them. "The Delhi government is in position to feed the entire city," he said.

So far, 40 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the national capital. According to the Union Health Ministry, the number of total COVID-19 cases climbed to 918 in India on Saturday, while the death toll remained at 19.

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