A number of Maharashtra districts
have expressed concern over the state Home departments decision to issue travel passes to those who wish to return home during lockdown, saying the influx in rural areas from cities could spread COVID-19 if guidelines are not followed.
Administrations of districts like Kolhapur, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Solapur, Nanded, among others, are worried about such a situation.
Kolhapur Collector Daulat Desai, in a video conference with Pune divisional commissioner on Sunday, said if people coming in large numbers do not follow the institutional or home quarantine orders and skip COVID-19 testing, it could harm the local population.
"The influx could spread the coronavirus. There should be strict instructions to people leaving cities like Mumbai and Pune that they will have to comply with the mandatory procedures," he said.
Minister of State for Home Satej Patil has also expressed similar concern.
"A number of people carried the coronavirus infection to Kolhapur in last some days. We need to take extra precautions while dealing with the arrival of people and contain spread of the disease," he said on Sunday.
The state Home department on Sunday said it has issued around 3.69 lakh passes to residents of Maharashtra so far to allow them to travel to their hometowns.
"People are desperate and there is nothing wrong if they want to go back home. Many of them are either unemployed or students who can no longer live in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Nagpur which are severely affected by the coronavirus," a state Home department official said.
There have been cases of people taking roads, where there is not much police security, to reach their native villages. This has made locals suspicious of the returnees, the official said.
"Instead of that, if we ask people to travel after taking proper precautions and medical tests, they will not be ill-treated in their native villages," he said.
In several villages of Solapur, Ahmednagar and Ratnagiri, locals have blocked the roads for outsiders.
"In some cases, returnees are asked to stay at some school or temporary shed. It is very difficult in the current summer heat to spend over a week sitting idle in those schools or temporary shelters. Even the local administration is clueless about how to deal with the influx, said a social worker from Ratnagiri.
The entry point of Sindhudurg district saw a nearly two-km-long queue of vehicles on Sunday evening. Authorities deployed there do not know how to handle so many people who are anxious to return home, and the fear that may carry the infection has increased the worry of local administration, the activist said.
Senior officials of Solapur and Nanded districts have held meetings at the local level to address the issue, but are yet to find a concrete solution.
"It is a chaotic situation as families request us to let their members come back home. But, their neighbours are anxious about it. When we tried coming up with the mandatory quarantine solution, the families were not very keen on it. This has increased our as well as people's concerns," said a senior official from Solapur.
The official said they doubt home quarantine will be strictly followed in such families.
"Even if we manage to keep the returnees in institutional quarantine, we do not have proper facilities there for water, electricity and other basic amenities for a large number of returnees. We don't know what is the right step in this situation, he added.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)