The Uttar Pradesh government’s bid to rescue its students from Kota in Rajasthan amid the ongoing lockdown has put pressure on other states to take an action at the earliest to bring back their stranded migrants.
Many states including Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam, and Jharkhand have approached the Rajasthan government to make necessary travel arrangements for sending their stranded migrant workers back to their natives.
While Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have sent buses to bring back their students home, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar termed the move “injustice to the lockdown”, saying it went against the principle behind enforcing the lockdown.
“The way special buses are being sent to ferry students from Kota, it is injustice with the principle of the lockdown,” Kumar told NDTV.
Speaking to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday (April 20), Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that his state has a problem way different from others.
“A large number of Rajasthanis, including migrant workers, shopkeepers, private employees, small businessmen are stuck in Assam, North East, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and other states. They are feeling frustrated and desperately want to go back to their homes and meet their family members,” he told Hindustan Times.
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The Rajasthan chief minister said while speaking to the home minister he explained that only if the government allows the migrant workers to go back to their native places will they be interested in going back to their workplaces in other states after the lockdown is lifted.
“They will feel satisfied after meeting their family members and happily go back to states where they worked once the lockdown is withdrawn,” he added.
Gehlot said at least five days of time should have been given by the Centre for the migrant workers and other people to go back to their homes similar to what they’d allowed for flights before imposing restrictions.
He said that the Union home minister has given his assurance the Centre will soon take a call on the issue.
“The home minister told me that he will inform me about the government’s decision tomorrow,” added Gehlot.
Earlier, several political parties including the Opposition Congress had urged the Centre to allow a one-time state transport service for the migrant workers to go back and not take to roads and walk long distances amid the nationwide lockdown.
Gehlot told HT that he would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to facilitate the return of five lakh Rajasthani migrant workers and others stranded in different states from the past one month since the lockdown was imposed, in the same way he has helped many tourists and foreign nationals to go back to their countries.
“Once they are in the right frame of mind after meeting their family members, they would be able to resume their activities and play a major role in the revival of economic activities once the lockdown is lifted,” he said.
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Concurring with Gehlot’s concern, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren told Hindustan Times that he is planning to request for a special train to bring back the migrant workers and others from various states.
An official from Himachal Pradesh told HT that after the state had sealed borders they got many calls from people stranded in other places, especially students.
“There are many students in places such as Rajasthan and Chandigarh and they have been calling to get them back to the state. Since there is a countrywide lockdown and movement is barred, we will have to take a call on the best way to deal with the situation,” said the official.
Another official from Madhya Pradesh said that discussions are being taken up with neighbouring states to enable the students and workers to return back to their homes, details for which will be decided at a meeting of the task force.
The Centre should come up with different ideas to allow the workers to commute in the midst of the lockdown via electronic passes, said Amitabh Kundu, distinguished fellow, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, adding that these passes should be given for travel via buses which can be easily sanitised.
“Companies can provide small payment to the state for each vehicle to meet the additional cost of the supervision and management. Employees opting for commutation though self-driven cars can also be provided e-permits,” he said.