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Pay heed to condition of migrant workers, Economists, activists tell Centre

Social Issues

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Over 200 academics, economists, social activists and lawyers have urged the Centre to pay heed to the condition of migrant workers who are walking to their villages amid the lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

They also said that the government should use the network of anganwadis, panchayat bhavans, schools, colleges, railway stations to set up centres to provide food to them.

The statement appealing for immediate assistance to migrant workers was signed by economist Jean Dreze and activists Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander and Medha Patkar, among others.

Calling it a "national emergency" which has put lakhs of people in danger of perishing in hunger and trauma, they appealed for an immediate response to the humanitarian crisis, to prevent it from snowballing further.

"This is an urgent appeal for assistance to migrant workers who are unable to reach their homes due to the current lockdown free food, medical care and sanitation at the very least," the statement said.

Noting that the sudden imposition of a 21-day nationwide lockdown at just 4 hours' notice has led to "horrific consequences" for many, they urged the government to pay heed to the situation immediately.

"The government must use the network of anganwadis, panchayat bhavans, government schools, government colleges, railway stations, bus stations, community halls, block offices, district headquarters etc to set up feeding centres to arrange free cooked food, medical care and sanitation," it said.

"Foodgrains to the tune of 585 lakh metric tonnes are available in godowns of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Central Warehousing Corporation (even before the wheat harvest).

"Some of it can be used to prepare cooked meals and/or take-home rations in these centres," it added.

They further said that this assistance should be available to all unconditionally, without any paperwork.

"This will still leave more than enough food in the godowns to fulfil the Finance Minister's announcements and maintain adequate buffer stocks," the statement said.

"We also urge the government to immediately arrange for sanitised bus and train services to enable stranded workers to reach home safely. Others trapped at their distant workplaces must be assured of a secure living space with enough food, soap, sanitary pads and medical care," it said.

India is under the biggest lockdown with around 1.3 billion people asked to stay home in view of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed 19 lives and infected over 800 people in the country.

There have been reports of a large number of migrant workers leaving their work places in different parts of the country and walking down to their native places, hundreds of kilometres away facing hardships on the way.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, March 28 2020. 21:10 IST