A day after the Centre allowed States to bring back migrant workers to their respective States by roads, the logistical nightmare in arranging tens of thousands of buses for this purpose has begun to haunt the State Governments. At least seven States —Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab and Bihar — have asked the Centre to run trains to move the migrants to their States citing the distance and the difficulty in logistics of travelling by bus.
Sources said the Railway Ministry is planning to run 400 special trains per day and may increase the number to 1,000 special trains. As safeguards, the train will run to the passenger-carrying capacity.
Taking to Twitter, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot wrote, “Long-awaited demand of movement of migrant workers has finally been accepted by the GoI. It is a welcome step but until GoI allows Indian Railways to operate, practically it will not be possible to facilitate smooth and hassle-free transport to their home.”
The Rajasthan CM said more than six lakh migrants have registered with the Rajasthan Government, asking for help to get home. They are being screened for coronavirus symptoms and those who don’t have any are being allowed to proceed.
Telangana Animal Husbandry Minister T Srinivas Yadav also demanded that the Centre arrange special trains and provide free transportation for migrant workers to their native States.
The Bihar Government also urged the Centre to allow running of special trains to facilitate the return of people stranded in different parts of the country. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi made an appeal in a video message claiming that depending on the road route could take months because of the limited availability and capacity of buses. Modi said the number of those wanting to return is likely to be huge.
According to officials of the Bihar Government, it is estimated that there are 25-30 lakh people from Bihar, including students and migrant workers, stranded across the country and it needs at least one lakh buses to bring them back by road.
In a related development, Jan Adhikar Party leader Pappu Yadav took the Twitter to announce that he has sent 30 buses to Kota, Rajasthan to bring back students from Bihar.
“If we depend on buses, the process could take months to complete. I would therefore urge the Centre to run special trains. These could be non-stop ones, with no halts between the points of departure and the destinations. Seating arrangements could be made for passengers in a way that social distancing is ensured. Food, water etc could be made available on board,” Sushil added.
The Nitish Kumar Government has been facing criticism from all quarters over its handling of the migrant crisis and its reluctance to bring back their people who have been stuck across the country during the lockdown.
Kumar has refused to bring back students and migrant labourers, sticking to his stand that puts lockdown rules first.
The issue of migrant workers has rattled the Nitish Government after his UP counterpart has managed to tackle this crisis with a fair degree of success.
Kumar also took exception to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to send hundreds of buses to bring back stranded students, saying it goes against the “principles of lockdown”. The Nitish Government has maintained the move is completely against the principles of social distancing and lockdown, which alone can contain coronavirus at the moment.
The Nitish Government was also left red-faced after it emerged that the State authorities issued a special travel pass to a local BJP MLA to bring back his daughter from the Rajasthan town during the lockdown.
Another reason why Kumar does not want the entry of migrants in such large numbers is protests by residents.
The Maharashtra Government has set up an office here to help migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students from the state, who are stranded in some other states due to the lockdown.
Rajasthan was the first off the block, ferrying out around 40,000 migrant workers since morning. Of them, 20,000 were transported in 200 buses to Madhya Pradesh. The West Bengal has arranged 95 buses to bring back 2,368 students from Kota.
Friday, 01 May 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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