Lacchmi (26) is four months into her pregnancy. On Sunday, she walked over 30 km with her husband and two children, aged two and four, from Nangloi — after their landlord locked them out of their rented home — to Anand Vihar in the hopes of catching a bus to their village in Etah. They were unsuccessful, but found cover in a school turned into a shelter in Patparganj.
The shelter has been readied for migrant workers in Delhi who have found themselves without a place to stay because of the lockdown.
Lacchmi, though, is restless. “My stomach has been hurting. I haven’t met any female caretaker here so I haven’t told anyone about my pregnancy. Yesterday, after all the walking, we found buses were not taking us across the border. I fainted out of exhaustion, and someone told my husband and children about this shelter. He brought me here,” she said.
Both the schools-turned-shelters at Patparganj and Ghazipur, near the Uttar Pradesh border, are largely occupied by people who had reached the Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal on Sunday, expecting a ride home.
On Sunday night, 150 people slept at the Patparganj centre, while 243 slept at Ghazipur. At both shelters, 9-12 mattresses have been laid out on the floors of each classroom, with some distance between them, and food is being provided by mid-day meal suppliers.
Occupants are also not allowed to exit the school buildings. Families are sharing rooms with each other, but have been asked not to sit on each other’s mattresses.
Jeetender (37) said he is impatient to get home to Kheri, Uttar Pradesh. “People here walked till Anand Vihar because they heard news that buses were taking people to villages in UP. I walked from Subhash Nagar, but all of us ended up running around in circles. A bus took some of us from Anand Vihar to Ghazipur bus stand. We got hit by lathis at different points. Finally, some people told me about this (shelter), so I’m here. I have received food here, but the moment the border is opened, I need to get back to my wife and four children,” he said.
The Ghazipur shelter has mattresses stocked in empty classrooms, in preparation for new occupants.
“We have around 40 classrooms but are using only 16 as of now. We are arranging for electricity points so that they don’t have to leave the rooms to charge their phones. We will also provide kits comprising bathing soap, detergent, toothbrush and toothpaste,” said a member of the school administration.
The government has published a list of 269 schools which are to function as hunger relief centres and be converted into shelters, and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that arrangements have been made to feed 4 lakh people on a daily basis.
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