States flag missing details of returning migrant workers
The missing details of many homebound migrant workers -- their age, gender, home address and mobile phone numbers -- has emerged an area of concern for states receiving them in the midst of the coronavirus disease pandemic. The issue has been flagged in recent meetings between the central and state governments.
As millions of daily-wage workers who lost their livelihoods in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown travel by Shramik Special trains to their states of domicile, a protocol has been put in place for transporting and handling the workers. Among many aspects of the protocol is one that pertains to making a special chart of all such passengers.
The chart is required to contain the names of all passengers and other details, and when a train arrives at its destination, it is handed over to authorities of the state receiving them. But amid the pressure of handling the teeming number of homebound workers, these details, vital for keeping tabs on the health of the returnees, sometimes go missing.
At recent meetings between the Centre and the states on the migrant workers, at least three states flagged the problem, officials aware of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
“The majority of the workers are sent back to their villages and only those who show visible symptoms of Covid-19 are immediately sent to quarantine centres. As millions of migrant workers spread out across the states, it is important to maintain a database and know their coordinates,” said one official who was present in a few of the Centre-state meetings by video conferencing.
Apart from the health concerns, the preparation of any plan for the welfare of the migrant workers also hinges on their whereabouts. The Centre is mapping districts that have received a large number of migrant workers to make any future plans for targeted welfare and employments programmes.
“Whenever these coordinates or manifestations are insufficient, the states are making noise. The preparation of chart is not just the responsibility of Indian Railways, but also requires an active role of the despatching states,” said a second official.
Until Thursday, 3,840 Shramik Specials had brought back 4.71 million migrant labourers to their states of domicile.
In a meeting between cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba and the states on Thursday, the Centre told states that are major recipients of homebound migrant workers to be extra cautious in monitoring the health of the returnees, officials said. All states were told to ensure strict enforcement of containment zones amid growing worries about the spread of the virus.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi and Tamil Nadu are the key states from where the migrants are setting out. The major recipients are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.