Migrant worker crisis in times of pandemic: The problem is far from over

Migrant workers board a special train to return to Agra, during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, at a railway station in Ahmedabad
The Union Home Ministry on Sunday made it clear that the relaxations given for the inter-state movement of people during the lockdown was available only to distressed migrant workers, stranded tourists, pilgrims and students only. The government had last week allowed their movement through trains and buses with certain conditions that include consent of both sending and receiving states, maintenance of social distancing norms besides others. 

However, it seems the problem is far from over.

On Sunday, scores of migrant workers gathered on the streets of Hyderabad demanding the Telangana government to send them back to their native places. Following which, the police officials intervened and asked them to go to their residences in the city.

The Delhi government issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movements of the migrants in and out of the city amid the lockdown. In each district, the Additional District Magistrates concerned and their police counterparts, the Additional Deputy Commissioners of Police are designated as district nodal officers to facilitate the process. "Only those found asymptomatic after proper screening by the authorities shall be allowed to leave," the govt said.

Andhra Pradesh government has drawn out the blueprint for the homecoming of migrant workers and students stuck in other states due to the coronavirus lockdown. 

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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has expressed his displeasure over the fare of Rs 305 being charged from each migrant labourer brought in a special train from Nashik in Maharashtra to Bhopal on Saturday. He has further instructed the officers not to charge fare from any labourer. On Sunday, migrant workers blocked the national highway near Bhayani and allegedly pelted stones at the police in which three cops received minor injuries.

A Shramik special train carrying 977 people, mainly migrant workers, left Nagpur, Maharashtra for Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow on Sunday. "The migrant workers have been charged Rs 505 for the journey which is very unfair. The Central government should have paid for their tickets from PM Cares Fund," Maharashtra Minister Nitin Raut said. 

Jharkhand government sent around 15 buses from 6 districts to Raipur, Bihar to bring back nearly 1,000 migrant labourers stuck there. In Chhattisgarh, 14 migrants who returned to the state recently tested positive on Sunday.

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After bringing back 2,300 students from Kota, Bengal government has arranged special trains to bring back over 2,500 stranded migrants from Rajasthan and Kerala, who will be screened on arrival. 

In the North East, 100 stranded labourers from Assam came back from Nagaland's Dimapur, who have been kept in quarantine for 14 days. The Mizoram unit of the BJP has urged the Centre to facilitate the return of the people of the northeast, who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.

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