Govt blames fake news for migrants’ arduous journey back to their villages

In response to MPs’ queries in Lok Sabha, minister says migrant workers panicked over availability of basic needs and started leaving for their village homes

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The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has said that more than a crore migrant labourers returned to their home states after the COVID-19 lockdown was announced. Photo: PTI

The government has blamed fake news for migrants walking hundreds of kilometres to their homes during the COVID-induced lockdown. It also told Parliament that the global experience with COVID-19’s highly infectious nature led the Centre to impose a nationwide lockdown on March 24.

Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai shared the information in the Lok Sabha in response to two separate questions by Opposition MPs.

To a question by TMC member Mala Roy as to why migrant labourers had to walk miles to reach their homes, Rai said, “The migration of a large number of migrant workers was triggered by panic created by fake news regarding the duration of lockdown, and people, especially migrant labourers, were worried about the adequate supply of basic necessities such as food, drinking water, health services and shelter.”

Related news: Over a crore migrants returned home during the lockdown: Govt

Rai said the Centre took all necessary steps to ensure that during the period of the inevitable lockdown, no citizen should be deprived of basic amenities.

Congress MP Manish Tewari asked why the government had to resort to a nationwide lockdown at a notice of just a few hours. Rai stated in a written reply, “Soon after the outbreak of coronavirus on January 7, several measures such as progressive tightening of international travel, issuing advisories for members of the public and setting up quarantine facilities were taken to contain the pandemic spread.

“The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as pandemic on March 11. Experts, keeping in view the global experiences of countries which have been successful in containing the spread of COVID-19, unlike some others where many people died, have recommended that effective measures for social distancing should be taken to contain the spread of this pandemic,” he said.

Rai said from March 16 to 23, most of the state governments/UTs resorted to a partial or full lockdown.

“COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease. Any mass movement of people would have spread the disease very fast among people in all parts of the country. Taking into consideration the above facts, the global experience and the need for consistency in the approach and implementation of various containment measures across the country, a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24,” he said.