NEW DELHI: A day before removing the clause of consent of the states for the movement of migrant workers via special shramik trains, the centre had asked all states for “pro-active coordination” in running more such trains and buses.
MHA has also asked for more clarity on departure of such trains and buses, alleviate the fear of long quarantine and adequately publicise the arrangements made for their travel.
The May 18 letter written by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla to all the states and Union Territories also asked the states to give special attention to women, children and the elderly among the migrant workers.
The letter released by the government on Tuesday, stated that the fear of COVID-19 infection and apprehension of loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers to their homes.
“In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, I would be grateful if the following measures could be implemented,” Bhalla said in the letter issued on Monday. He asked states to give more clarity about departure of trains and buses, sayinglack of clarity coupled with rumours has caused unrest among migrant workers.
Bhalla reiterated to the states the need to make arrangement of places to rest, taking into account requirement of sanitation, food and health for the stranded migrant workers.
“District authorities may guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation, enlist them with their addresses and contact numbers, which may be helpful in contact tracing in due course and involvement of NGO representatives,” he said.
Besides suggesting increase in number of buses for transporting migrants, Bhalla added that buses ferrying migrants should be given smooth passage at inter-state borders.
“Adequate arrangement of food, health care and counselling to encourage them to remain at places where they are should also be made,” Bhalla further said.
For contact tracing, the centre asked states and Union Territories to enlist migrants with their addresses and contact numbers and pay special attention to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers.
The home secretary also asked states and UTs to give directions to the district authorities to request the ministry of railways for running trains, where required, and ensure that no migrant worker has to resort to walking on roads or railway tracks to reach destination.
He said that “as you may be aware, area officers in ministry of home affairs are already assisting state nodal officers and railway nodal officers in movement of stranded labour”.
“We would be happy to facilitate the process further,” Bhalla said.
The home secretary reminded states and UTs of his April 29 order that states and UTs falling on the transit route will allow the passage of migrant workers to the receiving state and UT.
During the shutdown, at least 120 migrant workers have died while walking to their home states—due to accidents and hunger.
The railways have so far run around 1,500 Shramik trains since May 1, ferrying over 17 lakh people from various parts of the country to different destinations.
The Shramik trains were started after a month of shutdown and after daily scenes of thousands of migrant workers walking to their home states from different parts of the country became a common sight.
The announcement of running special trains at that time was mired by the controversial decision of charging fares from the migrants, a decision which was later withdrawn.
The lockdown was first announced on March 24 for 21 days to combat the COVID-19. The lockdown has been extended thrice since then and the country has now entered the fourth phase of lockdown which is scheduled to end on May 31.