NEW DELHI: States bordering Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar on Tuesday raised various issues with the Union Home Ministry concerning the coronavirus outbreak, including shortage of screening apparatus and lack of medical professionals to assist them. The meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla to review preparedness to contain the virus threat was attended by chief secretaries and additional chief secretaries of 12 border states and director generals of three border guarding forces — BSF, SSB and Assam Rifles.
The Meghalaya government urged the government to halt the upcoming Census 2021 exercise that is scheduled to begin from April, sources said, adding that the chief secretary said the state may not be able to spread its manpower on twin fronts — countering corona and managing Census. The home ministry directed the states to stop all “inessential” travel through international borders and increase quarantine facilities in far-flung areas with the help of stakeholders, this newspaper learnt. An official statement said the home secretary urged all the officials to ensure round-the-clock deployment of doctors, with requisite testing kits and other medical supplies so that 100 per cent screening is done without fail.
Sources said Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, both bordering Nepal, highlighted the difficulties they are facing in screening people due to “intense” passenger movement on the India-Nepal border. Representatives of the two states also requested the Centre, particularly the Ministry of Civil Aviation, to provide them with quick updates about passengers arriving from abroad and proceeding towards the states. According to sources, the states told the Centre that foreign passengers landing in metro cities are often reaching states via regular transport without any intimation to the states about the same. UP officials also cited people skipping tests as a “big challenge”, saying the numbers are “significant”.
West Bengal government sought further restriction of passenger traffic along the Bangladesh border and sanitisation of major airports and railway stations in the country. Manipur requested suspension of Inner Line Permits to stop the movement of outsiders. Almost all states asked for more assistance from the paramilitary forces deployed in the border states. Officials from the Arunachal Pradesh requested the Centre to ensure screening and safety of defence forces too. At the meeting, the border guarding forces said they have enough manpower but more medical professionals were needed to assist them.