The thought of biscuits dipped in tea made Vijay Kumar (55) step out of his home at a park in Anand Vihar and head to a local market nearby. But he was stopped by Delhi Police, who promised to feed him biscuits. Instead, he was dropped off at the Yamuna Sports Complex in Anand Vihar.
For the past four days, Kumar has been trying to convince officials at the sports complex to release him, claiming he has a family waiting for him at the park. But they are not convinced, and Kumar is expected to stay at the sports complex till the lockdown is lifted.
Since March 31, the Yamuna sports complex has been converted into a makeshift camp for those stranded in Delhi without a home. Among its 300 occupants are labourers who tried to leave Delhi on foot, street children, and many who simply broke curfew.
DCP (Shahdara) D K Gupta said, “The Yamuna Sports Complex near Vivek Vihar is being used as a shelter by the Delhi government. So far, we have managed to take 1,100 people there. They are mostly homeless people and migrant labourers who wanted to return to their villages. They are being provided meals, water, bathing facilities. Four police personnel are managing the security arrangements.”
He said that since the complex is huge there is scope to add more people and that people here were transported via DTC buses.
Around 250 beds have been laid out on a red carpet at the main lobby of the stadium, and officials said more are on the way. A three-member medical team, comprising a doctor and a pharmacist, works in two six-hour shifts, in addition to around 35 civil defence volunteers who work on rotation.
Further, there are two portable toilets which are changed every 24 hours. Due to a lack of bathrooms, men and women have to bathe in the open in separate areas of the complex.
Officials have so far stocked around 1,000 masks, 250 soaps and four bottles of hand sanitisers, which they believe should sustain them for at least a week.
Despite the facilities, Kumar and some others find themselves in a predicament. Among them is Ajijul (25), who claims he was stopped by police while on his way to get ration. “They said they will give me free ration and now I am stuck here,” he said.
Ajijul used to work at a jeans making unit in Shahdara and earned Rs 500 a day. He has now run out of money and is waiting for his relatives to pick him up. “I should have walked to Bihar like the others,” he said.
Abdul Khalid (34), who worked in a cloth-making unit for Rs 450 a day, was also picked up by police after he left his house in Shahdara looking for ration two days ago. He said he is worried about his friend as he had locked him in the flat when he stepped out.
“I have a phone which has run out of battery. My friend was crying over the phone last I spoke to him. I don’t know what happened to him now,” said Khalid.
Mohammad Abid (24), who used to work at a Styrofoam-making unit in Haryana, was dropped off in Delhi by the factory owner after evading several police checkpoints along the way. Though he managed to reach a relative’s house in Anand Vihar after a 10-hour walk, he was not allowed in.
“The colony residents did not let me enter until I got tested for coronavirus. I was picked up by police at GTB Hospital. I don’t even have a spare change of clothes with me,” he said.
Reena (34), a construction worker who used to earn Rs 300 a day, is worried about her children who are at a relative’s house in UP. She was planning on walking to her village when she was picked up by police from Vivek Vihar. “I just want my children to know I am alive,” she said.
Sohan Lal, the executive magistrate managing the stadium, said: “They will be allowed to leave if their families turn up with their address proofs in Delhi. We are trying to connect with the families.” He said the facility can accommodate more than 1,000 people.
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