Far west at high risk of COVID-19 outbreak •One laborer dies
•Over 100,000 returnees from India not in self-quarantine, neither is their health condition tested
DHANGADI/BAITADI, April 2: As thousands of people have come home from India in recent days without their health conditions being tested and they are also not undergoing home quarantine as instructed by the government, the far western region appears to be at very high risk of a Covid-19 outbreak. At the same time, there are thousands more stranded across the border and desperate to come home.
According to the CDO of Darchula, Tek Singh Kuwar, around 1,000 people are stranded at the Darchula border alone, and most of them are laborers. Even though India is taking care of them as per a bilateral agreement with Nepal, the returnees themselves are yearning to get home without delay. The Indian authorities have arranged accommodation for them at five different places, but some of them are simply crossing in over border area rivers, CDO Kunwar said.
On Friday, the local authorities dropped off some stranded Nepalis at Darchula and Jhulaghat, where their homes are located. Many others are hoping to be similarly dropped off . "However, services have not been so consistent. We are treated badly in India, This is true of so many of us. But our own government has not shown sensitivity either," said a local of Purchaudi Municipality – 3, Padam Bahadur Dhami. He was among those stranded at the Darchula border. "We wish our government would rescue us," he added.
Dhami walked for four days to reach the border. When the Indians imposed their lockdown, he had decided to return home. But it took him some days to arrange the journey. "There are thousands like us here, who have walked three or four days to reach the border, but we are not allowed to cross over and come home," he lamented.
The Indian authorities have kept the helpless Nepalis at a public school. But amid uncertainly in the face of the pandemic, they have urged the government to bring them home. In their desperation, many are forcing their way across the border. According to DIG Dev Kumar Bogati, acting chief of Nepal Police Sudurpaschim Province, India has quarantined the stranded Nepalis at the border at Banbasa, Paliaya, Jhulaghat and Gaddachauki. They are being provided food and shelter by the India security forces. But some of the Nepalis have made their way over the rivers to get home.
Meanwhile, Agarbar Singh, 42, of Marma Rural Municipality – 2 in Darchula district, who had gone to Madkot, Uttarakhand to work as a laborer, has died. According to his relatives, he also had walked a huge distance to reach home. He breathed his last near a suspension bridge.
As per government records, over 150,000 people have entered Nepal from across the western border in the last few weeks. Some of them are in quarantine. Most have come back from Delhi, Maharastra and Uttarakhand.
The sudden surge of people in the villages and towns has made the locals fearful of a COVID-19 outbreak.