NEW DELHI: In a major relief for migrant workers and other people, like students and tourists, stranded for the past five weeks due to the nationwide lockdown, the home ministry on Wednesday allowed their inter-state movement by road in accordance with protocols to be worked out by states.
The Centre’s decision is significant as it comes days before the second phase of the lockdown is scheduled to end amid indications that curbs in “red” areas will not be eased much. As these currently include several large cities where migrant labour is usually employed, there is a strong possibility of workers remaining confined.
With discontent running high among stranded workers and economic activity being limited, the Centre decided that workers be allowed to return.
While the Centre expects states to ensure that the “homecoming” happens in controlled conditions, the return of lakhs of workers can potentially spell a logistical challenge, besides stiffening the task of dealing with the pandemic. The workers have remained cooped up in “host states” because of the suspension of transport, despite having no jobs or income and against their wishes.
Though thousands defied the “stay-at-home” protocol to try and go back, a majority of them had to stay put. The prospect of lakhs of workers raring to rush home presents the respective state governments with the daunting task of drawing plans to manage the movement of millions in the next four days. The Cen tre has ruled out running trains because of the social distancing protocol which can be adhered to more effectively in buses.
After their return, the workers will have to be scanned and isolated, and in cases of suspected symp toms, quarantined — an endurance-challenging requirement for states like UP, Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan when the pandemic has already strained their resources.
Modifying Clause 17 of the MHA guidelines dated April 15 dealing with the movement of people, the home secretary on Wednesday ordered that stranded persons would be allowed to move across states and UTs subject to certain conditions. The political compulsions in various states should prompt governments to make the arrangements and foot the bills.
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