Stranded migrant workers, students can go home. MHA sets the ground rules
The central government has, however, refused to run special trains to take them home as demanded by some states such as Maharashtra. They would have to travel in buses.Updated: Apr 29, 2020 19:53 IST
A month after millions of people, mostly migrant workers were stranded without work in different parts of the country, the Union home ministry on Wednesday finally allowed states to repatriate them to their respective states.
The central government has, however, so far refused to run special trains to take them home as demanded by some states such as Maharashtra.
They would have to travel in buses.
The only condition that the home ministry has imposed for such inter-state travel is that the government of states, from where these people begin the journey and the government in the destination state, should clear the trip.
Besides, only people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 would be allowed to travel. They would also be subject to health check ups by health authorities of states which they cross.
Several states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh had already started bringing back people from other places though the central guidelines till this evening did not permit such travel. This had put chief ministers of states such as Bihar under immense pressure.
Nitish Kumar, who has been battered by the opposition in his state for sticking to the rulebook, had insisted that he would not take any step that violated the central guidelines and had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order the home ministry to set the ground rules for this trip. Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik had made the same request at last week’s interaction of chief ministers with PM Modi.
It will be a mammoth task working out the logistics of arranging thousands of buses to what state governments have estimated would imply transporting five million workers.
On arrival at their destination, “such persons would be assessed by the local health authorities, and kept in home quarantine, unless the assessment requires keeping the persons in institutional quarantine. They would be kept under watch with periodic health check-ups. For this purpose, such persons may be encouraged to use the Aarogya Setu app through which their health status can be monitored,” the home ministry’s guidelines said.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla’s order on Wednesday is in contrast to the Centre’s stand before the Supreme Court just a few days earlier when it told a three-judge bench led by Justice NV Ramana that “there is no necessity” to shift the migrant workers from their place of occupation to their home in villages.
“Their daily needs are being taken care of wherever they are working and the daily needs of their family members are being taken care of at their respective villages,” the status report filed by the Centre had said.
That is not how many migrant workers perceived their status. Besides, there
As HT reported earlier in the day, disquiet and anger was simmering in the shelter homes where the workers have been located since the end of March.
Tuesday’s violence was the third incident reported from Surat involving out-of-work migrant workers since the lockdown was imposed last month to check the Covid-19 spread.
There have been numerous instances of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres to reach home. Some succeeded.
Pinky, 29, was caught in Rajasthan. She and her family - they worked at a cloth mill in Bhilwara - were on their way back to Uttar Pradesh last month when they were stopped by the police. They have been living at Jaipur’s Gandhi Nagar shelter home since March 29. She told HT that she just wanted to see her four-year-old daughter back home in UP’s Etawah.
One reason the Centre had been reluctant to let migrant workers head back home in a hurry is that the absence of workforce in states such as Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana would come in the way of industrial units getting started again.