States get to work to bring back students, migrant workers home
Even as there is pressure from several states such as Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Rajasthan to start special trains for transporting people, the centre for now has allowed movement only in buses.Updated: May 01, 2020 08:04 IST
Several states have set in motion the process of compiling data and coordinating efforts to bring home stranded migrant workers, tourists and students, a day after the ministry of home affairs issued guidelines on the protocol to follow for their transportation.
Even as there is pressure from several states such as Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Rajasthan to start special trains for transporting people, the centre for now has allowed movement only in buses.
Though the ministry of railways has said it has made no decision on running special trains thus far, an official said the ministry is working out plans on deploying special trains, contingent on the decision by the home ministry.
“The Home ministry will take the call soon. Phase-wise plans will be drafted by each zone based on the expected crowds,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
Bihar, which had insisted on a central guideline on the movement of people during the lockdown, has appointed the secretary of its disaster management authority as the nodal officer to coordinate with other state governments.
The state too has made the request for starting special trains to make the process of transportation easier.
Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar on Thursday also appealed to Centre for special trains to bring back migrants. “I appeal GOI to allow special trains to bring migrants from distant places,” he tweeted.
The Bihar administration has announced that it will enforce quarantining for migrant workers at facilities set up at the block level across the state. Students and tourists will be screened and allowed to quarantine at home if they are found asymptomatic.
“The process of registration has begun. And once we bring them into the state we will provide food, shelter and even provisions such as utensils and other basic necessities to those in quarantine shelters or in isolation centres if they are found positive,” said Sanjay Jha, minister of water resources and the national general secretary of JD(U).
The minister also said that the state will take penal action against anyone, willfully breaking protocol and entering the state without following the due process.
The state, which has received about 28 lakh requests from workers stranded outside Bihar for getting Rs 1,000 transferred by the state government through direct transfer, will develop an app to create a data bank of those who need to be transported back from across the country.
In Uttarakhand, where officials have received the most calls from stranded persons in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat; efforts are underway to organise buses for their transportation.
“The MHA guidelines will be followed. We had already been receiving calls from people on the helpline that was started just after the lockdown began; but now we will start taking requests afresh,” said an official of the Uttarakhand government.
Though states such as UP and MP had begun the process of bringing back stranded domiciled residents, Bihar and Jharkhand had insisted that the Centre should draft a common guideline for all states to follow so that the provisions of the disaster management act that is in force are not violated.
In UP, an official said arrangements are nearly ready to set up a quarantine facility and a community kitchen for 10 lakh people.
“Between March 28 and 29 we brought 4 lakh people from Delhi, nearly 50,000 from Haryana and Rajasthan; we also brought back students from Kota. The state chief secretary has written to all other states to inform us about our residents there and what kind of help is needed so that we can make arrangements,” said an official in UP.
UP chief minister, Yogi Adityanath has also urged migrants not to undertake their journey on foot and said that the UP government is preparing an action plan for the safe return of all.
On whether the state will wait for the special trains to start before bringing back people, the Uttarakhand official said the administration will “stick to the MHS guidelines” and start the process of transportation using buses.
As part of its internal brain-storming exercise, some railway officials have also drafted a paper titled ‘Facilitating Migrants Travel’, suggesting free-of-cost travel, ensuring social distancing, close coordination with states, movement of migrants in phases using a cluster-based approach.
A meeting was held by senior home ministry officials with the railway board and RPF officials Thursday according to an official aware of the development. A decision on running special trains may be taken following home ministry and the Prime Minister’s nod.