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Saturday, June 06, 2020

In UP-Delhi sparring, new message adds fuel to migrant exodus fire

A Delhi government official said they are “not aware of any such message”, and maintained that “there was no decision by the Delhi government at any level” to escort people to the border.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: April 1, 2020 1:51:25 am
Migrant workers returning to their homes in UP sleep at a shelter home in Lucknow on Monday. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastava)

Amid a tussle between the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments on the exodus of migrants from the national capital, a purported message on the ‘SDM Seelampur Group’ has come to light, which states that “people who are roaming on the streets and wish to cross the border may be escorted to Shastri Park”, and from there “DTC buses will take them to Ghaziabad border”. The message is attributed to the “Div Com and Home Secretary”.

This comes two days after two senior Delhi government officers were suspended and two others were issued showcause notices for “failing to maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty” during the lockdown. A Delhi government official said they are “not aware of any such message”, and maintained that “there was no decision by the Delhi government at any level” to escort people to the border.

Additional Chief Secretary (Transport) Renu Sharma and Principal Secretary (Finance) Rajeev Verma were suspended Sunday, while disciplinary showcause notices were issued to Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Satyagopal and the Seelampur sub-divisional magistrate Ajay Arora.

The Indian Express sent the purported message to Arora, the Seelampur SDM, but he did not comment on the issue. Sharma, Verma and Satyagopal did not comment on the issue either.

After the lockdown was announced, thousands of migrant workers have been trying to walk to their villages. The numbers had swelled Saturday, when thousands gathered at Anand Vihar and Lal Kuan in the hope of getting a bus to UP. The Uttar Pradesh government had claimed Delhi government deliberately dropped migrant labourers at the border with UP — a charge denied by Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, who called the allegations petty and ridiculous. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly appealed to migrants to stay in the capital, assuring them that food and shelter will be taken care of.

Delhi government officials said they had not taken any decision to facilitate the exodus. “The government is not aware of any such messages sent by any officer,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.

The officers were involved in relief operations started by the government, especially coordination between different district officials regarding setting up of shelters and distribution of food. A government official said both had been working hard to ensure help is given to migrant workers.

“Perhaps there was a misunderstanding. The officers have been working hard and are quite senior. Since the matter of services does not fall under the elected government, we did not have a say in the matter,” the official said.

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