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March 31, 2020
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Stranded, Unable to Commute: NCR Residents Face a Gruelling Three Weeks Ahead

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New Delhi: Students, office workers and regular emergency workers are among those facing a complex set of challenges in the wake of the nationwide lock-down announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in view of the outbreak of coronavirus.

Hospital staff, housing society guards and shopkeepers selling groceries, helpers at chemist shops, petrol pump attendants and sanitation workers have been forced to walk to their workplaces because neither their employers nor the authorities have managed to work out a system of transportation for them. Their work is seen as an essential service, yet no attention has been paid to how they can commute to their workplaces smoothly.

Private security guards, who are exempted from the lockdown under the Union home ministry’s guidelines, have been walking to their workplace every day since Sunday and have said that it is difficult to arrange for any form of transportation.

Speaking to Khabri Baba, a private security guard at a prominent hospital which has branches across the NCR said, “I travel from Ghaziabad every day. There are no buses, auto-rickshaws or metro trains running. I walk for a major part of the journey and keep requesting bikers for a lift. It is difficult for me to manage like this every day.”

Also read: In Photos: The Poor Set Off on Foot, to UP and Bihar, as Lockdown Makes Delhi a Ghost City

Students and office workers who stay in PG accommodations are also stranded and face a different set of problems.

The National Capital Region (NCR) houses a large number of young office-going members, students and visitors from across the country. Gurugram, Faridabad and Noida are popular hubs, especially with the private sector. The lack of clarity about what their offices expected coupled with the sudden lock-down has placed a huge challenge before them.

Many were stranded in NCR and could not travel back to their hometowns. Manual labourers, in particular, lamented about not being able to return to their families. Many students’ roommates have also left for their respective hometowns, which has further added to their woes.

A homeless person sleeps on the pavement outside a railway station during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, March 26, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis

The 21-day lockdown has just started. Female employees living by themselves are worried about how they will go out to buy essential provisions.

The lockdown is necessary and the stranded are not opposed to it but they believe that being with their families would have made matters easier for them. Anjee, an office employee from Bareilly, who works in the IT sector, said, “It is nightmarish to stay alone for 21 days since I could not travel home”. Stranded in the middle of the lockdown, she said buying grocery is a frightening experience. because of the long queues.

Many women are facing similar issues in Faridabad and Gurgaon. Shikha Tripathi who is from Lucknow is a chartered accountant and employee at a prominent private bank. She has been stuck in Noida and hopes that someone she knows will travel to Lucknow in their private vehicle. “I know many customers who are from Lucknow and work here. They may travel back so I am trying to find out if I could get anyone and turn lucky to travel along with them,” she said.

Also read: ‘Stay Home’: Coronavirus Shows How the Government Has Failed Homeless Persons

Some students in private universities who were a little late in booking their tickets to travel back home are not getting hostel food now because the mess is shut. They are also not allowed to step out.

A student, who wished to remain anonymous, at a private university in NCR said, “I’m not getting any food. Hostels are closed and we cannot go out. We have not stocked food so now with the complete lockdown I am going to face a tough situation”.

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