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Covid-19 outbreak: States face logistics nightmare to take migrants home

MHA asks states to ensure uninterrupted movement of trucks

Coronavirus | Ministry of Home Affairs | Uttar Pradesh government

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migrants, workers, jobs, population, poverty, coronavirus, industry, police
Police officials appeal to protesting migrant workers to maintain calm at IIT Hyderabad on Wednesday. Workers were allegedly peeved about denial of wages. Photo: PTI

Even as they finetuned procedures and identified nodal officers to help with inter-state transit of stranded people, state governments on Thursday questioned the Centre’s plan of transporting migrant workers, students, pilgrims and others only by bus. They demanded special trains for the purpose, but the Centre is yet to announce a plan to that effect.

State governments cited logistical challenges in transporting thousands of people by road in the summer heat. They said ensuring social distancing during the long travel was not the only problem and that arranging so many buses was equally challenging.

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Making sure there’s adequate food and water during the journey that could stretch up to three days was yet another task.

States said they would also struggle to find suitable quarantine facilities for those returning home.

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asked the administration to prepare for quarantine and food for one million workers returning to the state. There are around 1.04 million workers residing in 26,476 relief camps in the country, the Central government told the Supreme Court recently, but these are conservative estimates.


Meanwhile, the Union home ministry on Thursday made it clear that no separate passes are required for inter-state movement of trucks — those carrying goods or returning after delivery — during the ongoing lockdown and licence of the driver is enough.

As Punjab CM Amarinder Singh stated in a letter to Prime Minister on Thursday, Ludhiana alone has over 700,000 migrant workers. He said the state has over a million workers involved in agriculture and industry and 70 per cent of these hail from Bihar.

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“Movement of such large numbers was possible only by trains with proper screening at the time of departure,” he said, asking the PM to have the railways “arrange for point-to-point special trains”.

A Bihar minister put the logistical challenge that confronts his state in perspective.

“If we follow social distancing norms, about 170,000 buses will be required to bring 2.5 million registered labourers of Bihar stranded in different states,” Bihar minister Ashok Chaudhary said. He said conditions were not suitable for his government to bring migrant workers back.

(Inputs from Virendra Singh Rawat, Samreen Ahmed, Aneesh Phadnis, Avishek Rakshit, T E Narasimhan, Vinay Umarji & Archis Mohan)

First Published: Fri, May 01 2020. 02:50 IST