WHEN BUSES from Uttar Pradesh arrived at a shelter home in Panchkula to take labourers back to their villages, Naushad (42) was the happiest. But when he reached the shelter home facility of Saharanpur, what he saw made him think he was better off back in Panchkula.
What awaited them was an open ground covered with tin, bedding scrambled underneath and no sense of social distancing. “The fact that we had to stay another 14 days away from home came as a shock to us. Nobody had told us that this will be the scenario. Where we lived before was heaven, I don’t think I will be able to live here for another 12 days,” said Naushad.
According to labourers who spoke to The Indian Express over phone, there were no proper preparations for food for them on Sunday, the day they reached the Saharanpur shelter home.
“We have been kept in an open ground. It has been raining since yesterday. It is very cold here,” said Pran Ahmed, who reached Saharanpur Sunday.
While several police officers have been posted inside the Radha Swami Satsang Bhawan, where they are put up, no health officials have been to the camp to screen the labourers yet.
“We are lying out in the open. No health teams have been by to check us, as opposed to what used to happen in previous shelter homes. There are long lines for food here. Each person has to stand an approximate half an hour in line to get their chance. For water, tankers have been kept and we can go and take water ourselves,” said Usmaan (18), another labourer at the shelter home.
Comparing his current accommodation to the previous one, Naushad said, “We were given good beds with blankets, towels, plates, bottles, glasses and even clothes at Panchkula. There are no arrangements here. Some who do not have bottles, drink water with their bare hands. There we were provided with masks and sanitisers. Almost nobody has masks here and tie their gamchas or hand towels on their face.”
An approximate 600 people have been put in the shelter home according to SSP Dinesh Kumar. As many as 17 police officers have remained posted at the site on two 12-hour shifts.
Local MLA Sanjay Garg told The Indian Express, “The facility was provided by the Satsang Bhavan. Food and all other amenities are being provided by them.”
Saharanpur District Magistrate Akhilesh Singh could not be reached for comment.
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