As exodus hits social distancing, Shah asks States to use disaster relief fund to rehab migrants
The panicky march of the thousands of migrant workers is turning out to be major stumbling block for the Centre in its effort to enforce social distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus. With experts warning that such unruly assembly could help the contagion to explode — two migrant workers from Rajasthan tested positive on Saturday — the Home Ministry has come out with a measures to deal with the grave situation.
The measures include raising tents along the highway to accommodate these workers and provide them food and medical assistance. The march of the migrants has alarmed health experts, who feel that it will defeat the very purpose of the lockdown. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also expressed unhappiness over the move by States Governments to arrange buses for migrant workers who want to return to Bihar.
“The entire purpose of lockdown will be defeated if thousands of migrants are sent to Bihar by buses. My Government has already asked the Bihar Resident Commissioner in New Delhi to coordinate with different State Governments and reimburse the cost involved in providing food and shelter to migrants who are on their way to Bihar. We have already announced Rs 100 crore package for them,” said Nitish on Saturday.
Nitish was right in his apprehension. At least two migrant workers, who travelled from Indore to Rajasthan amid coronavirus lockdown in the country, have now been found positive for COVID-19.
Against the backdrop of these developments, Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday spoke to many Chief Ministers to accommodate the migrant labours in the States itself by providing food and shelter, rather than transporting them to their home States. Shah said the Government is committed to offer all support to migrant workers during the lockdown period and suggested that schools and colleges can be used for sheltering the migrant workers.
The Home Ministry changed the guidelines of State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) to allow States to use the fund for the purpose of rehabilitation of the migrant workers.
“With the intent of Modi Government to provide all possible support to migrant workers, the Union Home Secretary has again written to States requesting them to immediately set up relief camps for migrant workers/pilgrims, etc, who are returning to their domicile States or trying to do so during this lockdown period. States have been advised to give wide publicity and awareness, using public address systems, technology and by utilising the services of volunteers and NGOs,” said the Home Ministry in a statement.
The Ministry also asked States to set up tented accommodation to ensure that these persons will stay in the relief camps till the lockdown orders are in place. The shelters are to be organised, keeping in view various precautions including social distancing, with adequate medical check up drives to identify and separate cases requiring quarantine or hospitalisation.
Meanwhile, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gakari asked NHAI chairman and toll operators to provide all help to migrant workers by providing food and water. “I have advised chairman NHAI and Highway Concessioners/ toll operators to consider providing food, water or any kind of support to migrant workers/citizens who are trying to reach to their respective native places. At this time of crisis we have to be compassionate for our fellow citizens,” he said.
Commerce and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has appealed to Industries and trade bodies to take care of their workers and not allow them to go to home States in the time of crisis. In a video conference, Goyal said, “Don’t let your workers go away” to the industrialists across the country. Talking to representatives from various manufacturing, industry and trading associations, He said they are not only their assets and resources, but also could become potential carrier of COVID-19, if they are allowed to migrate to leave en-masse during this pandemic.
Goyal exhorted the associations to show the spirit of service and selflessness, and participate in protecting the nation and society. He said the Government is fully committed to support all the sections of society and is taking relief and confidence-building measures.
Meanwhile, four migrant workers from Rajasthan were crushed to death and three seriously injured when a tempo ran over them as they were walking along a highway in Maharashtra’s Palghar district on Saturday.The victims were among hordes of migrants who were stopped at Maharashtra-Gujarat border and sent back as they were trying to return to their home States amid lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday, 29 March 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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