With the Bengal-Odisha border sealed last week to prevent further increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the states through cross-border migration, hundreds of people have been left stranded. Despite being so close to their homes, these families are now spending their time at makeshift facilities near the West Bengal border to sustain and secure themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Several of these families are Vellore returnees, who had travelled down South with their families to seek treatment and the number of such people arriving at the border is increasing by the day. An India Today report states that they are holed up in tents erected near the checkposts along the Odisha-Bengal border, while those suffering from serious ailments have been put up at a lodging facility nearby.
Not only are the patients and their caregivers uncertain about when they can finally return home, they also run the risk of falling sick again, despite spending huge sums on elaborate treatments.
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Aresa Bibi belongs to one such hapless family stuck at Bengal border. She had taken her 18-year-old cousin to Vellore for treatment when the novel coronavirus outbreak had just started in India. After incurring an expense of Rs 1.5 lakh on transport, she finally managed to cross three states to reach the Bengal border, only to be stopped by authorities there.
Describing her plight, the 35-year-old woman said: “We are not allowed to enter our own state. Police is saying we do not have a permit. A district magistrate had given us the permission after discussing it with other states. Then why is Bengal not allowing us to enter? We have been stuck here for the past five days. The private vehicle that we all hired promised us to safely take us to our destination. But since my own state did not let me enter, the vehicle returned, leaving us stranded over here.” She also complained that the authorities are not serving them proper food at the makeshift facility.
Meanwhile, many of the people stuck at the Bengal-Odisha border have been sent to the IIT-Kharagpur Hospital, where swab tests are being conducted to find out if any of them are infected by the novel coronavirus.
Pijush Ghosh, who had also taken his sons to Vellore for treatment, alleged there are only three toilets there, which are being used by almost 300 people. He added details of how all of them are crammed inside one common hostel and how COVID-19 will spread like wildfire even if one person is infected.
Notably, Bengal Police were supposed to test these people, following which those with negative results were supposed to return home. However, due to an alleged lackadaisical approach, the process has been very slow with only critically-ill patients being tested and sent home.To follow our full coverage on coronavirus, click here