Amarinder wants Centre to arrange special trains to send back migrants
DOUBLE WHAMMY Punjab has 10 lakh workers; departure to hit efforts to restart industries as well as paddy sowingUpdated: Apr 30, 2020 22:53 IST
After the Centre allowed the return of stranded migrants and others to home states, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrange for point-to-point special trains to send them back.
The chief minister’s request to the Prime Minister is significant as the state has over 10 lakh migrant labourers, mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with 7 lakh in the Industrial hub of Ludhiana alone. A majority of them have been without any work or income from the time the Punjab government imposed curfew on March 23 to check the Covid-19 spread, bringing all economic activities to a half.
Amarinder, in his letter to PM, said estimates indicated that nearly one million workers would need transport to go back to their states and the only feasible option in the circumstances was to arrange special trains. “Given the large number of workers stuck due to the lockdown, use of buses for their transportation will not work,” the CM wrote to the PM, citing the Union home ministry’s instructions of April 29 regarding the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourist and other persons.
If these figures on migrant workers longing to return home are correct, the exodus will not only be a serious setback for the state’s efforts to restart industrial units, which have been lying shut for over one month, but also add to the worries of farmers who are preparing their paddy sowing after harvesting wheat under the shadow of Covid-19. Of the 2.52 lakh registered industrial units in the state, only 3,600, or say 1.4%, have started operations will lower capacities despite repeated appeals and assurances of the state government.
Industries director C Sibin said factories were already facing a shortage of labour due to Covid-19-related fear psychosis and their return to their home states would further aggravate the problem. “There is no clarity on when they will return to work,” he said.
Similarly, the farmers are also headed for a tough time in the upcoming paddy transplantation starting from June 20. Owing to curfew, many labourers have not come back after Holi festival, and those who are here are planning to leave.
As per the estimates of the state agriculture department, 12.5 lakh labourers are required to transplant paddy over 75 lakh acres in 30 days. “The upcoming situation is worrying, but we still have 50 days for transplantation. We have started efforts to deal with the situation,” said agriculture secretary KS Pannu.
Amarinder, who also had a video conference with the district chief of civil administration and police, directed all deputy commissioners to prepare state-wise data of migrant labourers to coordinate their movement. “Though data is still being collated, approximately 70% of them hail from Bihar. The movement of such large numbers is possible only through trains, with proper screening to be done at the time of departure,” he said.
The CM said a large number of migrant workers who had come from Bihar, UP, and Jharkhand intended to return to their respective states because most of them either lost their jobs or could not find work due to curfew.
Also, a decision has been taken to assign one officer to each state to coordinate their return. In response to concerns expressed over shortage of food packets in some districts, Amarinder directed the food department to increase the quota of rations to be distributed to migrants and non-smart card holders.
MIGRANTS’ JOURNEY TO START FROM MAY 5
The Punjab government on Thursday said the outward movement of stranded persons in Punjab will start from May 5.
The state government has issued standard operating procedures for outward movement of those stranded in the state. “As per the SOPs, within 48 hours of receipt of this letter each DC shall get filled pro forma from each willing person who wants to go out,” according to an official spokesperson. The pro forma is available online.
He said once a person has filed the pro forma on link for his family/group, he/she will be given a system generated unique ID for the full family/group. By 9am of May 3, all the districts should get complete information filled online by all the interested persons.
The spokesperson said access to backend of the link will be provided to all DCs by Dr Sumit Jarangal, member, state COVID control room in a couple of days. “When the process of data collection is on, the DCs should simultaneously prepare for setting up an adequate number of health check-up camps to cater to such persons who are desirous of moving out. The screening should be completed by May 4 night at all cost,” he said.