Covid-19 lockdown: States under pressure to bring back migrant workers – india news
The Uttar Pradesh government’s move to evacuate its students from Kota in Rajasthan during the Covid-19 lockdown has brought the other states under pressure to act and ensure early return of their stranded migrant workers.
Except Bihar, many states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam and Jharkhand have now approached the Rajasthan government to facilitate the return of their stranded students and are making the necessary arrangements for their travel back home.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand too has taken back its students.
The move has triggered demands for the passage of migrant workers stuck in different states to their respective native places.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday and told him that his state has a different problem than others.
“A large number of Rajasthanis, including migrant workers, shopkeepers, private employees, small businessmen are stuck in Assam, North East, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and other states. They are feeling frustrated and desperately want to go back to their homes and meet their family members,” he told Hindustan Times.
Gehlot said he told Shah that if the Centre allows them to return to their homes, only then they would be eager to go back to their work places in different states once the lockdown is lifted.
“They will feel satisfied after meeting their family members and happily go back to states where they worked once the lockdown is withdrawn,” he added.
The Rajasthan chief minister said the Centre should have given at least five days to the migrant workers and others to go back to their homes like it had allowed the flights before enforcing the restrictions.
He said Shah has assured him that the Centre will soon take a call on the issue. “The home minister told me that he will inform me about the government’s decision tomorrow,” added Gehlot.
The Opposition parties, led by the Congress, had expressed concerns over the plight of migrant workers who were forced to take a long walk back to their villages due to the nationwide lockdown enforced to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The political parties had urged the Centre to allow a one-time state transport services be made available to the migrant workers to enable them to go back to their homes.
Gehlot said he would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi that when his government can help in the evacuation of foreigners stranded in India and get back the Indians stuck abroad, he should also facilitate the return of migrant workers and others, including five lakh Rajasthani citizens, to their homes as nearly a month had passed since the restrictions were enforced.
“Once they are in right frame of mind after meeting their family members, they would be able to resume their activities and play a major role in the revival of economic activities once the lockdown is lifted,” he said.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren told Hindustan Times that he would request a special train from the Centre to transport migrant workers and others from different states back to their homes.
Officials in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh said they are inundated with calls from residents, mostly students seeking help to return to their states.
An official in Himachal Pradesh, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, after the coronavirus outbreak the state had sealed its borders to ensure there is no movement of people or commercial vehicles though arrangements had been made for passage of those in need of critical care or other emergency reasons.
“There are many students in places such as Rajasthan and Chandigarh and they have been calling to get them back to the state. Since there is a countrywide lockdown and movement is barred, we will have to take a call on the best way to deal with the situation,” said the official quoted above.
In Madhya Pradesh too, the issue of bringing back students and migrant workers from adjoining states is being discussed.
An official privy to the developments said the issue of working out the details of how to arrange for transportation of students and workers was raised at a meeting of the task force set up recently.
Amitabh Kundu, distinguished fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, said the government should formulate ways for allowing the workers to commute during the lockdown by issuing electronic passes.
He said these passes can be issued for travel in buses that can be easily sanitized and allowed outside the hotspots. “Companies can provide small payment to the state for each vehicle to meet the additional cost of the supervision and management. Employees opting for commutation though self-driven cars can also be provided e-permits,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Centre issued guidelines for movement of workers within a state following the decision to ease restrictions in non Covid-19 hotspots to resume economic activities.
While inter-state movement of workers during the lockdown has been prohibited, MSMEs, construction and agriculture activities outside the containment zones, have been permitted from April 20.
As per the order, migrant labourers in relief and shelter camps will have to be registered with the concerned local authority and their skill mapping will have to be carried out to find out their suitability for various kinds of work.