The Delhi government on Monday imposed stringent curbs on inter-state travel by deciding to seal the city's borders for a week. While the move, according to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, is aimed at ensuring that hospital beds are not crowded by people coming from outside Delhi, it left many confused as to how they would go to work or board a train or flight.
Addressing a digital press conference, Kejriwal sought suggestions from the public till Friday 5 pm on whether to keep the borders sealed beyond the stipulated one week. "For the time being, our government is sealing the borders of Delhi for one week. Essential services will remain functional and government officers can travel on their identity cards. Based on the suggestions received from you, we will talk to experts and decide on our future course of action on the opening of borders," he said.
A senior government official said that those who have been issued passes from the city administrations of Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad will be allowed as per the lockdown relaxation order.
"Residents of Delhi who go for work to neighbouring cities will have to collect e-passes from their respective district magistrates. Since we have opened all private and government offices, it will be wrong to prevent employees from travelling to other cities. The passes can be taken from any neighbouring district as well. The idea is to restrict the unnecessary movement of people between NCR cities, an exercise that even the UP and Haryana administrations have undertaken," said a senior government official.
A media advisor to the chief minister said those coming from NCR cities and headed to the Indira Gandhi International Airport or any of the railway stations, the tickets would suffice as passes. "For the return of the driver to the NCR city, it is recommended that he is given a copy of the ticket. For ex-servicemen living in NCR cities and having medical appointments in their designated hospitals (army, Central government, railways, etc), their government ID card will suffice," the spokesperson said.
Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava said that the city police were yet to receive the Delhi government's order regarding sealing of the city's borders. "We are awaiting the DDMA guidelines on the Unlock-1. Once they are received, we will devise ways to implement the same. We will do what is best suited for the people of Delhi," said the police commissioner.
The chief minister further said the decision to open Delhi borders "can be challenging" because of the "large influx" of people from across the country for medical treatment in the Capital. He said it would lead to Covid beds getting filled in "just 2-3 days". Kejriwal said Delhi would have 9,500 beds by Friday and currently 2,748 of the 4,456 beds are occupied. As per government's plan, by June 15, it will have 10,000 beds ready for serious patients with 450 beds in the newly constructed Burari hospital and more private hospitals reserving their beds for Covid patients.
On Monday, Delhi recorded 990 fresh cases taking the total to 20,834. The cases in the city also crossed the 20,000-mark, even as the number of active cases was 11,565 as on Monday.
The Delhi government order sealing the city's borders read: "In view of the current public health situation in the NCT of Delhi, inter-state movement of non-residents of Delhi, into the territory of Delhi shall be allowed only on the production of e-passes issued for essential services or in case of emergent circumstances, by authorities of respective state/UT and/or district magistrates of NCT of Delhi. However, government employees shall be allowed on the production of government ID card."
The order further stated that the movement of vehicles and individuals within Delhi is allowed and will not require any passes. Inter-state movement of good or cargo trucks will be allowed, it stated.
The decision to seal the borders came a day after Haryana decided to lift similar restrictions on its side, assuring those travelling to and from Gurugram of a smooth commute after at least two weeks. The administrations in Noida and Ghaziabad, however, said that curbs on their borders will continue, notwithstanding the May 30 central order that eased restrictions on inter-state travel.
Delhi residents who work in cities such as Gurugram and Noida were left puzzled if they will be allowed to travel to their offices or not. "Why did the government allow to open private offices if I had to restrict the movement of people. Now I will have to take an e-pass which will have a long pendency again. Last time, I got my pass after four days of application," said Darshini Sinha, a resident of Vasant Kunj, D Block.
The Delhi government's decision was also criticised by the BJP and the Congress with the leader of the opposition in the Delhi Legislative Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, saying Kejriwal was trying to divert people's attention from the failure of his government in handling the Corona crisis.
"Delhi also has large central government hospitals like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Ram Manohar Lohia and Safdarjung. How can Kejriwal decide that no patient from other states will come to these hospitals for the treatment. The chief minister is arguing that if borders remain open, there will be a danger of beds fixed for Corona patients being taken up by those from outside the city. But, the fact is that the increasing number of Covid patients has exposed the poor preparedness of the Kejriwal government," he said.
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary said when economic activities and vehicular movement has been restored in Delhi, there was no point in shutting off the city for neighbouring cities.
"This will only create chaos on the borders. The government has not given any thought before making this announcement," Chaudhary said.
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