Lockdown: 1.35 mn migrant labourers return to UP amid Covid-19 crisis

Health workers conduct thermal screening of passengers who have arrived from Delhi by a special train at Howrah station, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Kolkata
With the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown completing 50 days, nearly 1.35 million migrant labourers have so far returned to Uttar Pradesh by trains, buses and other means.

Of these, an estimated 650,000 labourers returned during the months of March and April, when the lockdown was first announced, via the Delhi border. They were later ferried by UP roadways buses to their respective districts in UP.

Later, when the Centre decided to ply interstate ‘Shramik Special’ trains for the stranded workers, about 470,000 workers arrived in UP on trains from different states.

“About 150,000 people have returned through their own means and private vehicles. Besides, nearly 70,000 workers, including some students from Kota, have come back by roadways buses. This puts the total number of people returning to UP at almost 1.35 million, which is highest in India,” UP additional chief secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi said on Friday.

So far, 380 trains have arrived in UP from states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. Of these, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab account for the maximum number of trains, more than 300, coming to the state.

Besides, the UP roadways corporation has deployed a fleet of about 12,000 buses to ferry labourers from other states or to take them from railway stations to their places.

Now, the state government has arranged for trains from Delhi, apart from intrastate trains from Noida, Ghaziabad and Jhansi to expedite the shifting of stranded labourers.

“The state government is alert to the migrant labour issue and is taking all the steps to provide relief,” Awasthi said, adding Chief Minister Adityanath had issued directives to dissuade labourers walking on foot, or travelling on cycles or other means, to return to their native places.

“The CM has asked for constituting a picket at the police station level to stop such people and make proper arrangements to take them to their respective districts after providing them food and medical screening,” he said.

Awasthi said the government was preparing a strategy to leverage the comprehensive relief package of Rs 20 trillion announced by the Centre for the benefit of labourers coming back to UP.

“Since, we are preparing an exhaustive database of these workers complete with the details about their skills, they could be gainfully employed in the state itself,” he added.

The state is boosting pool and random testing of samples against the backdrop of heavy influx of migrants and reports of a few Covid-19 positive cases coming to light.

Meanwhile, the CM has ordered for analysing the need for labour to restart commercial and industrial activities in the Noida and Greater Noida region, and to allow for free movement of skilled and technical staff across the state.

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