Covid-19 crash: States face daunting task of evacuating millions of migrants
A day after the Union Interior Ministry opened the floodgates for the return of stranded migrant workers and others to their places of origin, the Herculean challenge of managing the logistics of registration, detection, transportation and quarantine of thousands of returnees It seemed to weigh on states like Bihar and UP, which among them have about 42 lakh people waiting to return.
Bihar Vice President CM Sushil Kumar Modi on Thursday demanded that the Center operate special trains to transport migrant workers and students, saying the state government was unable to organize the transport alone to bring back 27 lakh from migrants from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Chief (Health) Secretary Sanjay Kumar said in Patna that all returnees would be screened upon arrival, but there was no clarity on the scale of infrastructure required to quarantine the masses who are willing to return.
Rajasthan began moving around 40,000 of the stranded 2.8 lakh migrant workers from various states who have registered for evacuation, even as it prepared for the return of more than five times that number in the coming weeks. As of Thursday night, six Lakh migrants had registered through a central helpline and other platforms created by the state government.
We have prepared 1,400 isolation centers across the state to quarantine anyone who returns with symptoms of flu-like illness, said additional chief secretary Subodh Agarwal.
In UP, which expects 10-15 lakh migrant workers to return, CM appealed stranded in several states to stop them from walking back. “Keep showing the patience you have shown so far, don't start walking. Contact the government of the state in which you are located. We are in talks with state governments for his safe return, he said.
Officially, 14 days of quarantine in the host states is mandatory before returning to UP. A senior government official said in Lucknow that state buses would bring people back, either from the borders or the states where they registered for evacuation. More than 11,000 people have already returned from Haryana, according to this protocol.
On Monday, the UP government's Maharashtra helplines were inundated with 97,754 calls. Delhi's helplines recorded around 45,000 calls the same day.
Maharashtra on Thursday issued new guidelines for the interstate and intrastate movement of stranded people who want to return home. No one may enter or leave the state without permission from the collector of the respective district. All registered vehicles will receive a transit pass for each fixed route with specific validity, mentioning the names of the passengers. A control room has been established in the Mantralaya to coordinate the effort.
In the Kangra district of Himachal, there were riots among the local population of more than 15,000 people who arrived in the past three days and allegedly refused to be quarantined. After multiple complaints, the police shared a blurred image of a couple of returnees who had been hired for violating the home quarantine. The image was shared with a warning asking all newcomers to stay home. District Magistrate Rakesh Kumar Prajapati said that no passes will be issued at this time, although there are around 50,000 applications pending.
Gujarat, which has between 5 and 7 thousand lakh of immigrants waiting to return to UP, Bihar, Odisha and, authorized the collectors of the district to issue travel passes after a medical examination. Around 10,000 migrant workers from neighboring MP and Rajasthan have already been laid off at the borders of these two states. Those who want to return can register online on the government's digital portal. You will be issued passes online after verification.
MP has already recovered around 1.5 lakh of workers in the past month, most of them walking hundreds of kilometers. The government hopes to bring around 15,000 more. The migrant workers have been identified and registered on a portal so that the administration can finalize the transport, authorities said.
However, almost 2,000 lakh Bengal migrants stranded in other states may not be able to return to their homes even after entering the state. Those who have their homes in the 444 containment areas of Bengal will have to stay elsewhere.
Odisha, whose CM Naveen Patnaik asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday to establish a standard operating procedure for the movement of stranded people, estimates that between 7 and 10 lakh people will return.
Assam has set the number of returnees at 1.5 lakh, all of whom must register through a portal and await travel permits. The entry will be in batches, according to a system. The state government has requested permission from the civil aviation ministry to transport 859 people who had gone to Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Vellore and Bengaluru for medical treatment and were stranded.
Online registration began Wednesday for those who are stranded in other states and want to return. As of Thursday noon, 85,000 people had registered, most of them and Tamil Nadu.