Mandatory home or institutional quarantine for 14 days is what the Gujarat government plans for the diamond workers who are keen to leave Surat and return to their villages in Saurashtra, a senior state government official said on Monday.
The diamond markets located in Varaccha, Katargam, Punagam and Mahidherpura areas of Surat city have an estimated 4,000-odd diamond units that employ close to five lakh diamond workers. A large number of these workers hail from Saurashtra. Last week, the Surat Diamond Association had requested the state government to allow the diamond workers to return home.
“The diamond artisans of Surat belong to Amreli, Bhavnagar and Botad districts of Saurashtra region. They have been staying back in Surat for quite some time and it is their wish to be allowed to return back to their native villages. The government is currently thinking about this and an appropriate decision will be taken in a short time. There are challenges before the government. When the diamond artisans return back to the villages in these districts, it should not lead to the spread of corona infections,” said Ashwani Kumar, Secretary to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, on Monday.
Sending diamond workers back from Surat — the district with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Gujarat — to their native villages that lie in safe “green zones” in Saurashtra region, especially in Amreli district, is a challenge for the state government.
Till Sunday, Surat had 686 positive cases which is only second to Ahmedabad. In comparison, Bhavnagar had 53 cases, Botad had 30 cases and Amreli had a zero cases.
Kumar said the process of allowing diamond workers to return back to Saurashtra will be done in phases. “Whenever the diamond artisans leave Surat in their own vehicles or in buses, they will be screened and if they have symptoms like fever or cold then they will not be allowed to proceed further. After they reach their villages or towns, they will once again be tested and will also be mandatory quarantined for 14 days,” he said, adding that it is for the local body or the village panchayat to decide if the returning workers should be kept in home quarantine or institutional quarantine (at a dharmshala or a hotel).
“After completing the 14-day quarantine, these workers will not be allowed back into Surat for a month,” he said, adding both the district collectors will be coordinating for this purpose.
Currently, the Varachha municipal zone in Surat city has a total of 101 positive cases of COVID-19, while Katargam zone has 73 cases. However apart from this many people from these areas are home quarantined and some are in the Government quarantine centre.
With the diamond factories shut due to the lockdown, a reopening looks distant in the coming weeks. The diamond workers without jobs have been desperate to return to their homes in Saurashtra.
Talking to the Indian Express, BJP MLA from Varachha and state health minister Kishor Kanani said, “We have come across the demand of many people hailing from different district in Saurathra who wanted to go back to their native place. On this demand, we have conducted meeting with the five BJP MLAs from different seats in Surat city, and native of different districts in Saurashtra. We have made representation to the state government to sort out the issue of the diamond workers who wanted to go back to their native place.”
He further added, “The actual figure is not yet known as how many diamond workers want to go back. But keeping in mind the diamond industry at whole, we know that over five lakh people are involved in diamond cutting and polishing activities and with nominal income they stay in rented house in Surat. They wanted to go back to their native place and work there and will return once the situation turns normal. We have made request to the government and we are hopeful that in a day or more the permission will be given.”
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