Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is likely to raise the issue of running special trains to transport migrant workers to their states in his video conference with his counterparts and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. Also, in case trains are not allowed to operate, the state transport department is considering options, including arranging buses to ferry the migrants home.
“The chief minister will raise the issue of running special trains to transport migrants to their states in the video conference with the PM tomorrow. We hope that some decision will be taken in the meeting,” said a source in the government.
Uddhav had raised the issue of running special trains for migrant workers in a video conference with the PM on April 11, a few days before migrants had gathered outside the Bandra railway station, resulting in the police resorting to lathicharge.
Earlier this week, Uddhav had also reiterated the demand before the Inter-Ministerial Central Team, which had come to asses the on-spot situation in the state, saying that guidelines should be issued in this regard before the end of April.
Sources said the government has started the preliminary work on chalking out a plan for the transportation of the migrants. Across the state, around 650,000 migrants are living in camps, where the government is providing them with food and healthcare services.
Sources said that it has sought the details of migrant workers from all district collectors. The tentative plan is to make those workers seeking to return home register with the police. “Then, the workers will be divided into categories based on where they want to go, whether they are residing in government relief centres and whether they have any documents such as Aadhaar card or ration cards among others,” said a source.
Even migrants who are not staying in camps but in their own accommodation and are keen to return to their native state will be asked to register. The government will take a call on who to send first on priority, said the source.
In the eventuality that train are not allowed to operate, the state has drafted a back-up plan. Sources said that the transport department has started preliminary preparations and is considering options, including arranging buses — both government and private — to ferry migrant workers home. “It is not yet clear whether states will send their buses or we need to send our buses. It needs to be decided first,” said the source.
Confirming this, Transport Minister Anil Parab said the meetings are being held to review this.
“Preliminary preparations are being carried out considering all options. No final decision has been taken yet. We are waiting for the state government’s order. We will make arrangements as per the order,” Parab told The Indian Express.
Uddhav, who addressed the people on Sunday, said the state was committed to send migrant labourers home as soon as possible. “Talks are on and we will arrive at a solution soon. But train services will not start. There should not be any crowding. If there is crowding, restrictions will have to be reimposed. Whenever possible, we will send everyone to your homes.” He added that it will be done gradually.
He also indicated that some relaxations will be granted in rural areas after May 3 but district borders will remain sealed. “Questions are being asked on what will happen after May 3 when the lockdown ends. Since April 20, we have gradually eased restrictions at some places. In Mumbai, this led to crowding, which we cannot afford. We are not opening district borders in rural Maharashtra but are gradually easing restrictions to allow economic activity to resume within districts. We will have to see how more relaxations can be given after May 3,” Uddhav said while addressing the state through webcast.
The state, acting on the Union government’s directive, had permitted industries operating in rural areas or outside the limits of municipalities to start functioning from April 20. Three days later, it withdrew these relaxations in metropolitan areas of Mumbai and Pune citing commuting by a large number of people.
Uddhav said the lockdown has helped to slow down the spread of the virus. Otherwise, it would have multiplied like it happened in other countries, he added.
Taking an indirect dig at BJP, Uddhav thanked BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari for asking everyone to keep aside politics and stand behind the Maharashtra government. “Power comes and goes, but lost lives cannot be reclaimed. No one should play dirty politics in times like these. I would like to thank Gadkari for his advise because some were trying to spoil the environment when there is excellent coordination between the Centre and the state,” he said.
The CM also urged Muslims to cooperate with the government and offer namaz at home and not on the roads or in mosques in the holy month of Ramzan.
Uddhav, however, kept mum on the recent MHA guidelines easing curbs on certain shops in urban and rural areas, indicating that the state is unlikely to allow any relaxations to these shops till May 3.
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