UP begins task for return of 1 million stranded migrants
The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 3, but there is no clarity on whether the exit will be total and if rail services will run soon after.Updated: Apr 29, 2020 01:44 IST
Uttar Pradesh has embarked on a mammoth exercise involving thousands of buses, and which could last up to two weeks, to bring back 1 million of its residents, mostly migrant workers, stuck in other states since March 25, when a national lockdown was enforced to fight the spread of Covid-19 , officials familiar with the plan said.
The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 3, but there is no clarity on whether the exit will be total and if rail services will run soon after. Indications from a meeting of the Prime Minister with chief ministers on Monday are that districts with a cluster of a higher number of Covid-19 cases will continue to be locked down.
Some 12,200 migrant workers from Haryana returned home on Saturday and Sunday as part of the effort which will gain momentum on Wedn esday when thousands more will set off on the journey home from Madhya Pradesh. The operation to bring back all the migrants from outside Uttar Pradesh is expected to take at least two weeks, a state road transport official said.
The states where UP workers are stranded include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday asked each district to set up shelters and quarantine centres to house 15,000 to 25,000 people. He also talked to his counterparts in various states to seek their permission to bring back the UP migrants from their states, officials said.
Adityanath’s government has put district administrations on alert to prepare for receiving the returnees, who will be brought back by Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) buses. Once back in their home state, the people who have no symptoms of Covid-19 will be held in quarantine in government facilities for a fortnight until it is deemed safe for them to return to their families; those who exhibit symptoms like cold, fever and shortness of breath will be put in hospital.
In a circular to all district administrations, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times, additional chief secretary (revenue) Renuka Kumar said: “Because we are expecting nearly 10 lakh (1 million) migrants from other states, each district must create the capacity to host at least 15,000 migrants. Some eastern UP districts may have more than 15,000 migrants coming in.”
Kumar added: “Till now, the migrants were largely lodged in schools or panchayat buildings, but now, under the Epidemic Diseases Act, the district administration should acquire larger premises with an adequate number of rooms, washrooms, bathrooms. The migrants will have to be quarantined at these centres for 14 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
Several states raised the issue of their residents, mostly migrant workers, stuck in other states during Monday’s meeting; some have asked for a national policy on the movement of such workers at a time when almost all inter-state travel requires permissions.
The Union home ministry refused comment on the issue.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state and one of the largest sources of migrant labour , has led from the front in bringing back people stuck in other states after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced the world’s biggest lockdown from March 25 to April 14, and extended it until May 3.
in the last week of March, Adityanath’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government sent 1,000 buses on an overnight operation to pick up and bring back an estimated 270,000 migrant workers who gathered on the borders of districts adjoining Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) .
Last week, the state government brought back in buses 10,500 Uttar Pradesh students enrolled in the coaching centres of Kota in Rajasthanin an exercise spread over three days. Its approach has ben different from that of the other states that sends ofFut a lot of migrant workers, Bihar. The state’s chief minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal United, a BJP ally, has been critical of efforts by other states to organise transport for their residents stuck elsewhere, and said these violate the spirit of the lockdown.
In an interview with HT published on Tuesday, Nitish Kumar noted that the Union home ministry had, through guidelines released on April 15, prohibited inter-district and inter-state movement of individuals until May 3, “except for medical reasons and permissible activities.”If the order issued under the Disaster Management Act is relaxed to allow such movements, we have no objection to that,” he said.
Buoyed by its success with students, though, Uttar Pradesh turned its attention to migrant workers.
“In the last two days, UPSRTC ferried a total of 12,200 UP migrant labourers from Haryana on 328 buses,” said additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi.
On Monday, the state government began to transport 10,000 students, enrolled in various coaching centres in Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, to their home districts elsewhere in Uttar Pradesjh. UPSRTC is using 300 buses of the Prayagraj depot to carry them.
“The operation that will start now would surpass all the previous ones combined. We will use buses at almost all depots to go to different states and pick up people. It’s going to be a long haul lasting several days, maybe weeks,” said a UPSRTC officer, requesting anonymity.
Awasthi, the additional chief secretary (home), said the number of returnees could be as high as 1.5 million and arrangements have to be made with that number in mind.
The state government has deputed civil servants to coordinate with the administrations of other states where the migrants are stranded. The state revenue department has the responsibility of hosting them for 14 days at shelter homes/quarantine facilities in various districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The Uttar Pradesh government has appointed nodal officers in 16 different states to assist the migrant workers.
“The state government officers, as well as the nodal officers of the 16 states, have been directed by CM to coordinate with the local district administrations and police officers for the transportation of the migrants to UP,” Awasthi said.
District administrations that are executing the exercise have been told about the dos and don’ts.
“On arrival, each migrant will have to go through a medical checkup. Only those without symptoms should be lodged at shelter homes/quarantine centres. Anyone with Covid-like symptoms must be sent to medical quarantine in the district,” said Sanjay Goyal, Uttar Pradesh’s relief commissioner.
Like community kitchens, such shelter/quarantine facilities will be geo-tagged. In guidelines sent to the district administrations, the additional chief secretary (revenue) said shelter/quarantine facilities, kitchens/community kitchens have to be sanitised twice a day.
Washrooms must be sanitised thrice a day, the guidelines said, adding that all inmates have to wear a mask or wrap a cloth around their faces. The kitchen staff must wear caps, masks and gloves. They have to make sure to maintain social distancing when serving food. When the migrants complete the 14-day quarantine, they will be sent home with essential rations.