Across states, officials gear up to handle migrants’ return
The UP government has appointed nodal officers to coordinate with other state government and district administrations to enable the return of migrants and to take care of them at geotagged shelter homes.Updated: May 01, 2020 01:38 IST
Several states appointed nodal authorities and kick-started formalities to bring back their residents --- migrant workers, students and pilgrims, among others --- who are stranded in different parts of the country because of the ongoing lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. According to state government estimates, there are close to 10 million migrant workers stranded in different states, who will travel back home by bus, in possibly the biggest such exercise India has ever witnessed. A ground report from 12 states.
Uttar Pradesh (UP), which has already brought back 2.7 lakh workers from Delhi and Haryana, is now gearing up to bring back another 1.5 million workers. Chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, on Tuesday spoke with the chief ministers of several states and asked for their help in the return of migrants to UP. The state has brought back from Kota, Rajasthan, 11,500 students (who had been there to prepare for competitive exams) and sent another 10,000 students to their homes in various districts.
The UP government has appointed nodal officers to coordinate with other state government and district administrations to enable the return of migrants and to take care of them at geotagged shelter homes. An UP Revenue Department officer said capacity has been created to house “6 lakh person against the expected 10 to 15 lakh migrants” coming in. A police officer manning a helpline in UP said that the number of calls has increased and they were assuring workers they would be brought back soon. .Shiv Mangal, 28, a migrant worker who is living at a shelter/quarantine camp at Janaki Kund Junior High School in the Pariyar village in Unnao said: “We came all the way to be in our homes, and not to live here.” He, along with 19 others arrived—on their own—came from Telangana on April 19.
While Maharashtra has a few thousand workers stranded in other states, it has close to a million workers from other states. Of these, around 5.7 lakh labourers are living in 4600-odd shelter homes in various districts of the state. State government officials said 1.7 lakh of them want to return.
The Maharashtra government on Thursday issued a notification allowing transportation of the stranded workers, pilgrims, and students after taking permission from district authorities. Respective state governments will have to arrange for vehicles to take back workers. The 14-day quarantine has been made mandatory for the people arriving in Maharashtra.
Nitin Kareer, additional chief secretary, Maharashtra, said, “We are not making any arrangements for the logistics, including their travel facilities for the migrant workers, who want to go back to their respective home states.”
An official from the relief and rehabilitation department said there was fear of violent reaction after May 3 from these workers, in case the lockdown and restrictions are extended. “In Nashik, Palghar and Jalgaon and other parts of the state, we received complaints of the workers in shelters either boycotting the food or even threatening drastic steps if they are not allowed to go to their states. Some of them even try travel to their states on foot,” the official said.
Madhya Pradesh has already brought back 20,000 workers. Additional chief secretary, ICP Keshri, said, “Besides, 7000 more labourers from Rajasthan, 3000 from Uttar Pradesh and 1600 from Goa are expected to reach Madhya Pradesh on Thursday.” Around 30,000 more have enrolled, he said, adding arrangements have been made for their food and accommodation.
Naval Adivasi from Sheopur district, who was brought back from Nagaur in Rajasthan along with 50 other labourers said, “We were stranded in Nagaur. The state government has made good arrangements for us here.” There were reports of a few protests from Gwalior-Bind area, where workers were asked to stay in quarantine.
Chhattisgarh and Odisha
Chhattisgarh’s chief secretary, RP Mandal, on Thursday asked collectors to update the figure of migrant labourers of their respective districts, who are stranded in other states and made the Chief Executive Officer of the zila panchayats in rural areas and the municipal commissioner and chief municipal officer in urban areas as nodal officers to coordinate with other states. He also told the collectors that the persons brought back will be kept in quarantine at the village panchayat level and would be tested for Covid-19, if they have symptoms. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Telangana are transporting the workers from Chhattisgarh by buses to the Chhattisgarh border. From there, Chhattisgarh government will take them to their destination districts. “Till now, about 11 lakh migrant labourers from Chhattisgarh are found stranded in other states,” said a senior IAS officer, who was not willing to be quoted. In Odisha, the officials said arrangements would soon be announced for about 7 lakh workers from Odisha stranded in other states.
Punjab and Haryana
Punjab has appointed a state nodal officer to coordinate the movement of migrants from Punjab to other states and vice versa. “An online registration system is also being started today on COVA app (a central app for all Covid-19 related information and management) to register migrant workers who are currently here and want to go back to their home states as well as Punjabis who are stranded in other states,” additional chief secretary, home, Satish Chandra, said.
Not too many from Punjab are working in other states. The government estimates that around five million workers from other states are employed in registered industrial units, and brick kilns. Of them, around two million are in Ludhiana. Tarsem Jodhan, President of Punjab Mazdoor Union, said that lakhs of migrants here want to go back after the government’s decision yesterday.
Like Punjab, Haryana has over two million workers from other states and officials said a team has been set up to coordinate with other states to send them back. Most of these workers are in National Capital Region towns such as Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonepat and Rohtak, officials said.
The Rajasthan government has appointed 19 IAS/IPS officers to coordinate with governments of 14 states, district authorities and other agencies. The officers appointed will coordinate with other state governments to resolve issues of Rajasthani workers in these states and with districts officers in Rajasthan to enable workers from other states to return home. Orders have been issued to set up transit camps at the state borders, where quarantine centres will be set up for workers. Till Wednesday afternoon, a total of 23,019 labourers were sent to other states and 4,874 were brought back to Rajasthan.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday said the government will come up with a detailed plan later this week and urged migrant workers in the city to stay indoors till then. “In Delhi, the main chunk of work is focused on sending back people to their own states. To send people back in safe conditions, adhering to social distancing norms, would be the priority if whatever strategy the government drafts,” said a senior official in the chief minister’s office. Delhi government is also making arrangement for bringing back Delhi students who are currently stuck in Rajasthan’s Kota.
A day after welcoming the Centre’s guidelines for stranded people, the Bihar government said it won’t be easy to bring back 2.5 million workers. Deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, said bringing them back in buses would take several months and the journey for workers would be tiresome, in addition to the huge expenditure involved.
Additional chief secretary, Amir Subhani, said the government will receive all the migrants returning to Bihar on its borders. “It is not written in the guidelines that Bihar has to send buses,” he said, citing the guidelines, which said that the sending and receiving states may consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road. Another official said the other option was to bring them back in trains, which could be cheaper and quicker. Bihar has already appointed disaster management department principal secretary, Pratyaya Amrit, as the nodal officer for stranded people.
The Jharkhand government has set up a team of 15 officers to coordinate with other states to bring back stranded workers. Johnson Topno, who is leading the state helpline, said about 9.5 lakh workers from the state are stranded in other states.
Chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, said the state was working on the protocol for bringing back migrant workers. The district administration has been asked to prepare the list of workers stranded outside the state. She had also promised to give Rs 1,000 to each migrant worker. The state government has already set up 711 camps in various districts where more than two lakh migrant labourers from at least 16 states have been put up.