Thousands of migrant workers have been gathering at Delhi's Anand Vihar ISBT and other bus and railway stations to go back to their hometowns since Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a week-long lockdown. This is despite his appeal to them with folded hands not to leave Delhi while sounding a word of assurance -- "Main hoon na" (I am here for you).

Visuals from ISBT and other terminals showed massive crowds waiting to return home. Heavy police force has been deployed at the bus and railway stations to handle the crowd. 

Policemen deployed in the area were also trying to counsel the migrant workers to stay back as the lockdown was for a few days only, according to a senior police official.

However, migrants feared that the lockdown could be extended as the situation of COVID-19 was deteriorating day by day.

Mukesh Pratap, who works at a cloth factory in Dilsad Garden and a native of UP's Bareilly, said he wanted to go to his home as there was a possibility of lockdown extension. "Lockdown will definitely affect our livelihood so it is better for us to remain at our home. It may be extended also and I would not like to take a chance," he said.

Some migrant workers also alleged that the private buses were overcharging them for the tickets. "We're daily wagers, CM should have given us some time before announcing it. It takes us Rs 200 to reach home, but they're charging Rs 3,000-4,000 now,how will we go home?" said one of them. 

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal appealed to the migrant workers to not leave Delhi, saying the short period of lockdown would need not be extended.

"I assure you, the government will take full care of you. Main hun na, mujh par bharosa rakho (I am here for you, have faith in me)," Kejriwal said, announcing the lockdown from 10 PM tonight to 5 AM next Monday.

In an online briefing, the chief minister said, "I would like to appeal to them(migrants), with folded hands, this is a short lockdown of six days. Please do not leave Delhi. You would lose a lot of time, money, and energy in travelling. Stay in Delhi."

Kejriwal said it was not an easy decision to impose lockdown because it hurt the poor people most. "I understand how people lose their jobs and wages during the lockdown. This is especially difficult for the poor people and daily wage workers," he said.

During the nationwide lockdown last year, a large number of migrant workers from Bihar, UP and other states living in Delhi had moved to their home states, through whatever means available and often on foot.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta