A 38-year-old man, who had walked over 200 km from Delhi to reach his home in Madhya Pradesh after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, died on the way.
Ranveer Singh, who worked as a delivery agent in Delhi, was among the thousands of migrants desperately trying to return to their hometowns and villages after they were left without jobs, shelter or money. Most of them have been covering a journey of hundreds of kilometres on foot, as all transport services are shut, including passenger trains and interstate buses, in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Ranveer Singh had started walking to his village in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district, around 326 km from the national capital.
When he collapsed on the highway in Agra in Uttar Pradesh, a local shopkeeper offered him tea and biscuits. But soon, Ranveer Singh had a heart attack and died. The man was about 80 km away from his village.
On Saturday evening, thousands of migrant workers crowded into bus terminals around the national capital trying desperately to return home across the border in Uttar Pradesh.
The centre’s “total lockdown”, meant to halt the spread of a highly infectious novel coronavirus that transmits rapidly in crowded spaces, had suspended all interstate bus and railway services, leaving migrants and their young families no option but to walk hundreds of kilometres foot in searing heat.
The Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments responded Saturday by arranging buses to ferry the people home; the UP government said it had organized 1,000 buses and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 200 buses would also be pressed into service.
The government has faced criticism that the lockdown, that came two months after the global outbreak, was announced abruptly and without planning, leaving millions stranded and triggering panic about access to food and basic necessities.
The government brushed aside the allegation that the nationwide lockdown was announced without any planning, triggering a major crisis for migrant workers and people who live on daily incomes. The country’s response to COVID-19 has been “pre-emptive, pro-active and graded”, the government said on Saturday.