Odisha faces quarantine crunch as 5 lakh workers register to return home
Over five lakh migrant workers stranded in different states have registered themselves since Friday on an online portal started by Odisha government to facilitate their return after the lockdown to check the spread of the Covdi-19 pandemic is lifted, officials said Monday.
“The portal which was running since Friday, saw 5.5 lakh people registering their names and other particulars,” said Odisha’s government’s chief spokesperson on Covid-19, Subroto Bagchi.
Officials fear that the massive registration could overwhelm the preparations made by the State government for the workers’ return.
“We have no idea as to what would be the final number of registration on the Covid portal. If all the 5.5 lakh turn up within one week of the opening of lockdown on May 3, it would be impossible to house all of them at one go,” said an official in charge of overseeing the quarantine set-up.
OIdisha has reported a total of 111 cases of Covid-19 so far.
On Saturday, the Odisha government had said it has managed to create 2.2 lakh quarantine beds in 7,120 temporary medical centres in about 7,000 gram panchayats and 120 urban local bodies to house the migrant workers for 14-day quarantine.
Though the government earlier had made the provision for home quarantine of 14 days for anyone returning from outside Odisha, it shelved the idea as a number of people in home quarantine slipped out and spread infection.
Already 86,000 workers, including 16,000 from within Odisha, are being accommodated in 2,610 quarantine camps in various districts of the state.
Political leaders from districts like Bolangir and Kalahandi expressed their apprehension over the influx of the migrant workers. Sangeeta Singh Deo, BJP MP from Bolangir said many sarpanchs are worried over whether quarantine and social distancing protocols can be managed at the temporary centres with the return of migrant labourers.
Kalahandi MP Basanta Panda, said the panchayats are ill-equipped for such large scale return and the government should address their concerns before allowing migrants to return.
With lakhs of its migrant workers getting restive to return home, the government on Sunday had said that it would arrange buses to Gujarat and Maharashtra to bring back stranded migrant workers after the lockdown ends on May 3.
In a video conference with his Gujarat and Maharashtra counterparts, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said a coordination committee comprising two officers each from all the three states will decide on the modalities of bringing back the stranded workers by buses or any other modes of transport available.
But on Monday, around 200 migrant labourers from Odisha stranded in Surat boarded four buses to return home. The migrant labourers said they have got approval from Surat district collector Dhavalkumar Patel.
Ganjam district collector Vijay Amruta Kulange said the migrant labourers returning from Surat will be kept in the government quarantine facilities for 14 days.