NEW DELHI: Asserting that returning migrant workers are "our brethren", Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday said he would welcome them with open heart in the state and that they cannot be blamed for the rise in coronavirus cases.
"Migrants are humans too. They are our brethren. We do not have any objection in migrants coming back to the state and we will embrace them (unhe gale lagayenge)," Chouhan told PTI in an interview.
He also rejected reports that have hinted possible increase in coronavirus cases due to migrants and asked, "Did corona not spread at places where migrants were not there?"
"There has been an increase in COVID positive cases in Madhya Pradesh. Migrants and other stranded people too have come to the state. Why do we blame migrants for the increase in coronavirus cases? It will not be appropriate to blame them for the rise in coronavirus cases. Any increase in cases is not only due to the movement of migrant workers," Chouhan said.
He said the entire issue of migrants returning to their native places need to be seen with the prism of humanity.
"There is humanity and sensitivity involved in this crisis. Who are these migrant workers? They are our brothers and sisters. They went out for earning livelihood. If they want to come back, Madhya Pradesh will welcome them with open heart," the chief minister of the BJP-ruled state said.
He said arrangements have been made not only for the workers of the state but for those from other states as well.
"We have brought back a large number of migrants of our state. As many as 1,000 buses of Madhya Pradesh have been pressed into service to drop migrant workers of other states to our state borders so that they don't have to set off their journey on foot. Whether they are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand or those coming from south-western states, we are looking after each one of them," Chouhan said.
The chief minister said around 4 lakh workers have been brought back to Madhya Pradesh from other states so far.
"We have decided to provide an amount of Rs 1,000 to 7,000 workers of other states who are stuck in Madhya Pradesh. We have provided them medical facilities for check-up and we are also providing them food. We are also sending them through buses and trains and in addition to it we are ensuring that all the expenses are borne by the state. No labourer should be charged for this," he emphasised.
Chouhan had recently written to the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Telangana, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh highlighting the practical difficulty in the movement of labourers -- that the state "does not get to know how many labourers from other states are coming to the border of Madhya Pradesh and at what time".
He said the state government has initiated work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for the benefit of such workers.
"We are trying to provide employment to labourers under this keeping all the care under the corona precaution guidelines. We are trying this so that workers of the state get employment. Till now, we have provided employment to more than 19.48 lakh workers. We will certainly help workers in every possible way," the chief minister said.
Hinting at the possible rise in coronavirus cases, Chouhan said one need to learn to live with it.
"There is no doubt that coronavirus cases will increase. We need to learn to live with it by taking all precautions. We are arranging all facilities for its treatment in medical facilities across the state," he said.
Chouhan also suggested the use of traditional ayurvedic system to increase immunity as a countermeasure against coronavirus.
"Allopathic treatment is available for all. But there is a need to increase people's immunity as well. We will emphasise on the usage of ayurveda also by the people. We have distributed over two crore packets of 'kadha' (decoction) to help people increase their immunity," he added.