‘Not possible’: Bihar CM cites lockdown for delaying Kota students’ return
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state was strictly adhering to the central guidelines on lockdown, and it will not be possible to bring back anybody, including students from places like Kota and migrant workers stranded elsewhere, till the time Union government amended or issued fresh directive in this regard.
Participating in a video conference, along with chief ministers of other states, Kumar said that many states have facilitated the return of students from the Kota in Rajasthan.
“Such steps have stoked speculations and unwarranted interpretations on social media,” said Kumar, apparently re-iterating his earlier stand that a move to transfer people from one place to another defeated the very spirit of implementing a lockdown.
“Bihari students are not only in Kota. Many are also in different parts of the country to get coaching. Bringing them back is not possible under the present framework. For this to happen, the Centre needs to amend its existing guidelines and issue fresh directives,” chief minister said, suggesting that any such relaxation should be evaluated for striking a uniformity in the future strategy on Covid-19.
Kumar, who heads a coalition government with the BJP and the LJP in the state, said that it was for the Centre to take a call on the duration of the lockdown. “It can take the views of specialists and qualified persons in this regard. Bihar will comply with the Centre’s decision,” he said.
Pressure has been building on the government for the safe passage of thousands of students and lakhs of migrant workers back home from their present locations as educational and industrial activities came to a juddering halt. Anxious parents, relatives and Opposition parties started to mount pressure, accusing the government of abandoning its own people.
A public interest litigation (PIL) was also filed in Patna High Court and the verdict that was due for the day has been deferred for Tuesday.
Aware that the return of students was intricately linked with the similar demand by a very large number of migrant workforce, the state government is treading with caution both to abide by the legal obligation for following the existing guidelines and also for limiting the spread of the contagion.
Kumar informed the PM that the state government has received over one lakh phone calls and messages from migrant workers. “Based on their feedback, we are making an all out effort to redress their problems,” he said, while urging that anyone being allowed to be sent back to the state should be subjected to intensive screening.
“We have also received 25 lakh applications seeking Rs 1,000 assistance announced by the state government and have transferred the amount through DBT mode into the accounts of 15 lakh people so far,” he said, drawing the attention of the PM towards the urgent requirement of additional ventilators and testing kits.
Last week, Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey had raised the earlier demand for ventilators from 100 to 500.
Chief minister said that the state government was taking all possible steps to contain the spread of the pandemic and has initiated intensive drive for door-to-door, on the pattern of pulse polio campaign, for screening.
“Seventy-five lakh families have been screened. We want to screen each and every family in the state, after the exercise is over in four worst affected districts. Testing is being carried out on a massive scale and the number of quarantine centres has been increased,” he informed.