Get more trains, ensure migrant workers don't walk: Centre tells states

Migrants travel towards their native places in northeast, during the ongoing Covid-19 nationwide lockdown, at Rayanapadu near Vijayawada. Photo: PTI
States and Union Territories (UTs) must ensure that migrant workers don’t walk on roads or railway tracks to reach their destination, said the central government on Tuesday.

The Union Home Ministry asked states and UT to work with the railways and arrange more trains to ferry people, issuing a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) after media reported nine migrant labourers had died in a truck and bus collision in Bhagalpur in Bihar on Tuesday morning.

Ensure that no "no migrant worker has to resort to walking on roads or railway tracks to reach his destination," said the SOP.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in his communication to states and UT, said the fear of the coronavirus and loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers towards their homes. "In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, I would be grateful if the following measures could be implemented," he said in a letter issued on Monday.

The home secretary suggested that more special trains should be arranged by pro-active coordination between the states and the Ministry of Railways.

He also said arrangement for resting places, taking into account requirement of sanitation, food and health, should be made.

There should be more clarity about the departure of trains and buses, as lack of clarity coupled with rumours caused unrest amongst the workers. Special attention may be given to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers, Bhalla said.

District authorities may guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation, enlisting the migrants with their addresses and contact numbers, which may be helpful in contact tracing in due course and involvement of NGO representatives at rest places etc, he said.

Bhalla said steps should be taken for the alleviation of the notion of long quarantine at rest places by district authorities or NGO workers. Increase in number of buses for transporting migrants are some other measures suggested, he said.

Besides, entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-state border should be allowed, adequate arrangement of food, health care and counselling to encourage the workers to remain at places where they are should also be made, he added.

The Indian Railways has operated 1,565 'Shramik' special trains since May 1 and ferried home more than 20 lakh migrants stranded in various parts of the country amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Twitter.

As many as 26 migrant workers died last week when two trucks carrying them from different states collided in Uttar Pradesh's Auraiya.

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