Seal border to stop migrant workers: Centre issues advisory to states

Fearing an upsurge in cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) by the migrant labor movement, a panicked central government severely repressed state administrations across India, including some led by the Bharatiya Janata party, for allowing migrants to move between cities and highways and ordering that not only the workforce stay there, but that the administration take steps to ensure their well-being there.

The mass exodus of migrant workers from industrial and commercial centers like Noida, Ghaziabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata caused chaos on Saturday, raising fears that long lines of people would be jostling and jostling pushing each other does lead to an outburst in the Covid-19 cases.

These are people who, having lost their jobs after a lockout and without savings, food or shelter, decided to return home.

Many have resorted to walking long distances, but realizing the queues for political damage to people walking the roads with their personal belongings on their backs could cause future state governments, including the government from Uttar Pradesh (UP) led by Yogi Adityanath, quickly announced they were arranging transportation to transport them to their villages.

This, in turn, led to an even greater number of masses at the borders and at bus stations in major cities, which caused a conflict between the Chief Minister of Delhi (CM) Arvind Kejriwal and the center, Kejriwal accusing his calls of reassuring the work that their basic needs would be met where they were, became ineffective when Adityanath offered transportation to the migrants.

On Sunday, following discussions with the Center, state governments put in place elaborate plans to monitor those who have already returned home and prevent more people from traveling, so the spirit of locking in on everything India be maintained.

On Sunday, after a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the government issued new instructions to ensure that district and state borders are effectively sealed and opened only for the movement of goods.

“District magistrates and police superintendents in the respective states will be held personally responsible for the implementation of these instructions that were issued under the Disaster Management Act,” said an order from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

States were urged to stop incoming buses at the border and place the occupants under mandatory 14-day quarantine. Food and other essentials should be made available to the population during this period, the Center said.

Measures should be taken against landlords who ask these tenants to leave, the Center said, adding that rent for a period of one month should not be charged to workers, including migrants. Food and accommodation for the needy – including migrant workers – is made available in the workplace. Sufficient funds are available with states for this, the Center said. In addition, employers should pay workers for the lockout period, he added.

Although there is no official count of the migrant workforce, UP is one of the States contributing a significant share.

Earlier, the UP government had advised migrant workers to stay put and had appointed nodal officers, each comprising a senior official and a police officer, for various states, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc. to coordinate with the respective jurisdictions to ensure that they get food and are not harassed by their owners during the temporary lockout period.

However, the influx started when Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi announced that the lockdown would continue until April 14. After that, the state government deployed a fleet of over 1,000 buses from the UP State Road Transport Corporation to transport these migrant workers to their districts. Most of these workers were destined for the central and eastern districts of the UP, namely Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Ayodhya, Gonda, Sultanpur, Bahraich, etc.

The state government has allocated Rs 13.50 crore to the various districts to organize the stay of these workers, outside the local screening and quarantine facilities. The government uses vacant premises, such as schools, colleges and community centers for these temporary arrangements.

“They will not be allowed to return home until they have completed the mandatory quarantine period in these facilities,” said UP chief secretary-general Awanish Kumar Awasthi.

The government is mobilizing social and religious organizations to set up community kitchens for them so that they can receive food parcels for the duration of their stay in these places.

Meanwhile, Adityanath asked the nodal officers to try to convince people of UP origin working in other states to observe the social distancing and stay in their current locations.

In addition, district authorities have been responsible for monitoring people who have already arrived from other states in the past few days. Authorities contacted nearly 60,000 gram pradhans via the personnel who manage the CM helpline to reach and follow those who have returned home, inform health officials if they have symptoms corresponding to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, after assuring the government of its cooperation, the opposition Congress party said on Sunday that the Center was wrong. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the head of Congress, Rahul Gandhi, said that India was different from all other countries and that a total foreclosure would not be effective here.

“It is essential for us to understand that the conditions in India are unique. We will have to take different measures from those of the other big countries that are following a strategy of total foreclosure, ”he said in a letter to the Prime Minister. This contradicts the position of some members of his own party who had not only asked for a strict foreclosure but also asked for the closure of Parliament as part of this process.

Gandhi said that the number of poor people in India who depend on daily income is too large to unilaterally shut down all economic activities in the wake of the pandemic. “The consequences of a complete economic stoppage will disastrously amplify the death toll of Covid-19,” he feared.

“The sudden closure has created immense panic and confusion,” he said, adding that factories, small industries and construction sites have closed, and tens of thousands of migrant workers are embarking on the arduous journey to reach their country of origin.

Gandhi said workers have been made vulnerable without their daily wages or access to basic nutrition and services. “It is important that we help these sections find shelter and provide them with money directly into their bank accounts to help them cope over the next few months,” he said.

The congressional leader added that a complete lockout would almost certainly result in millions of unemployed young people rushing to their villages, increasing the risk of infection for their parents and the elderly population living in the villages. “It will cause catastrophic loss of life,” he noted.


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