As the migrants continue to walk on foot despite to their native places amid Coronavirus lockdown in the nation, the Centre on Tuesday has asked the states and the union territories to operate more special trains in close coordination with the railways. It has said that special attention should be given for transportation of women, children and elderly migrant workers.
In a communication to all state governments and UT administrations, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said fear of COVID-19 infection and apprehension of loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers towards their homes. "In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, I would be grateful if the following measures could be implemented," he said in the letter.
The home secretary suggested that more special trains should be arranged by pro-active coordination between the states and the Ministry of Railways. He also said arrangement for resting places, taking into account requirement of sanitation, food and health, should be made. Highlighting the lack of clarity about the train and buses timing, the Home Secretary said that there should be more clarity about the departure of trains and buses, as lack of clarity coupled with rumours is causing unrest amongst the workers.
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He said: "District authorities may guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation, enlisting the migrants with their addresses and contact numbers, which may be helpful in contact tracing in due course and involvement of NGO representatives at rest places etc. Steps should be taken for the alleviation of the notion of long quarantine at rest places by district authorities or NGO workers. Besides, entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-state border should be allowed, adequate arrangement of food, health care and counselling to encourage the workers to remain at places where they are should also be made."
After PM Modi had announced the first phase of lockdown, on March 28, thousands of migrant workers were seen thronging the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border at Delhi's Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal in the hope of reaching their homes, defying lockdown and creating a health hazard. Similarly, after PM Modi announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3, on April 14, around 2,000 migrant workers gathered at Bandra station, under the illusion of boarding 'Jansdharan Express' trains to UP, Bengal and Bihar. Apart from this several visuals have been seen of thousands of migrants walking across state borders to reach their native homes due to loss of income amid lockdown. The Centre in Lockdown 3.0 arranged special Shramik trains for the transportation of the migrants to their native places. However, many accidents have occurred since the Centre allowed transportation of stranded migrants, and as many as 100 of them have died.
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In the new guidelines released by the MHA on May 17, no distinction has been made in the permitted activities as far as the Red, Orange, and Green zones are concerned. Though, only essential activities will be allowed in the containment zones. The state governments and Union Territories have been empowered to decide the demarcation of the three zones. All domestic and international air travel of passengers except medical and security purposes, Metro rail services, all educational institutions, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services except for those housing frontline workers, cinema halls, swimming pools, shopping malls, gyms, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, and auditoriums shall remain closed.
Also, no gatherings shall be permitted and the movement of individuals shall remain strictly prohibited between 7 pm and 7 am except for essential activities. On the other hand, distance education, running of canteens at bus depots, railway stations, and airports, home delivery of food items by restaurants, and the opening of sports complexes and stadiums have been allowed. All other activities which are not specifically prohibited such as shops, offices, businesses, etc. are also permitted to operate. However, the states/UTs have been given the power to prohibit restrictions in various zones as deemed necessary.