In Lockdown Desperation, Migrants Pick Bananas Trashed Near Delhi Cremation Ground

The bananas were thrown near Nigambodh Ghat, one of the main cremation grounds in the capital, and possibly used in rituals for the dead.

Hungry migrant workers scavenge for slightly edible bananas at Delhi cremation ground

Highlights

  • The bananas were possibly used in rituals for the dead
  • "We are not getting food regularly," a migrant from Aligarh said
  • Migrants stranded across country couldn't return home due to lockdown
New Delhi:

Discarded bananas rotting in the sun made for an unexpected feast for a group of men on the banks of the river Yamuna in Delhi on Wednesday afternoon. They picked through the trash for any good ones, adding one more gut-wrenching visual to the montage from across the nation of migrant workers pushed to the edge in the extended coronavirus lockdown.

The bananas were thrown near Nigambodh Ghat, one of the main cremation grounds in the capital, and possibly used in rituals for the dead. While scavenging for slightly more edible ones, the workers came across an occasional rotten roti.

"It is a banana... usually these don't go bad easily. If we pick well, they will last us a while," said a man, stuffing a bag.

"We are not getting food regularly, so better to take these," said a migrant from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

While this is not such a common sight, what is often seen here these days is scores of migrant workers sleeping in the open.

Stranded by the sudden nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, thousands of migrants in Delhi have been staying in this patch in north Delhi near the Yamuna.

Like many all over the country, they lost their jobs overnight, and were left without food or shelter. They couldn't go home as all public transport was halted.

As hordes of migrants started a long walk to their home states -- a chilling image at a time social distancing is critical to prevent the rapid spread of the contagion -- state governments stopped them and put them up in shelters.

55-year-old Jagdish Kumar from Bareilly was put up in one such shelter, which burnt down on last Saturday when two inmates fought. He has since been sleeping on the ground, wherever he can hide from the cops.

"Today, we got food after two days, at a Gurdwara," Kumar said.

After reports emerged of migrants left without shelter, the Delhi government started moving them to schools.

"We are taking them to shelters we have set up in schools," said Vipin Rai of the Delhi Urban Shelter Board.

The migrants were hoping for some relief after Tuesday, when the 21-day lockdown was to end. With the lockdown extended till May 3, their desperation has grown.

The government today put out guidelines for reopening some rural industries, construction and economic activity after April 20 in areas least affected by COVID-19, to generate jobs for the workers.

After this story was reported, Delhi government came to action and have arranged shelter and food for these migrant workers. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted about the development.