New Delhi, April 13 : It's 4 p.m. and the cook and helpers have started preparing the dinner at the SKV School in Ghazipur, Delhi, under the supervision of R. Ravi Chandran, who is acting as the warden of the night shelter.
The shelter is housing 382 migrant workers, including many women, since March 28, four days after 21-day nationwide lockdown came into force.
Chandran, 56, an assistant scrutiny officer in the recruitment cell of the Delhi government's Directorate of Education (DoE), is managing the shelter for migrant workers at the Government Boys Senior Secondary School and is also taking care of food for two other shelters, set up by the Delhi government last fortnight.
Chandran, whose job at the DoE was to screen applications for school staff from a plush government building, now spends his day at the tin shed, equipped with table and chair and a fan, in the school. At times, he shifts his chair under a tree shed.
Speaking to IANS, Chandran said, "No one has seen this kind of pandemic. I try to ensure that migrants, who are unable to reach their homes, are taken care of." On taking no leave since March 28 when this centre came up, he said: "What will I do sitting at home? Since the day the school was converted into a shelter, I have stayed here till late in night to ensure that no one slept hungry." On the daily routine of migrants at the centre, he said it was a problematic issue for them. "We have opened the playground of the school. They sit and roam around to spend time," he said.
When asked if his family feared for his health, Chandran said, "In the beginning they were apprehensive. But my family now understands that what I am doing is a great service. Now they don't complain about my reaching home late." Stating that few women at the shelter are expecting, Chandran said he try to take special care of them.
The Delhi government official said he had kept aside some money from his salary to help the migrants, stranded at the centre. He also showed IANS five pairs of slippers he had bought from his own money for the migrants.
Last week, he arranged money to buy masks for every people at the centre to tackle fears of coronavirus spread.
Chandran is helped by a Flood Department officer in running the shelter, 10 cooks to prapare food and 20 civil defence personnel to ensure safety and security.
Chandran ensures that meals are served on time; rooms, toilets and bathrooms are disinfected regularly, and social distancing is practiced in all the 41 rooms of the school-cum-shelter.
Soni Gautam, a resident of Hardoi in UP, told IANS, the quality of food was good. "There are women civil defence personnel as well, which maskes us feel secure. There are also other women at the shelter." She had arrived at the Anand Vihar on March 28 to get a bus to return home. As there was no bus, she with husband took refuge at the shelter.
"Me and my husband started to move from our Badarpur house in Delhi for Hardoi as I was pregnant and there was no one to take care of me at the home. But when we arrived at Anand Vihar, we came to know that no bus was going to Hardoi. We had no choice but to take shelter here," Soni said.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)