Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday suggested that arrangements to send migrant labourers home were not made in the first phase of lockdown or earlier because the government wanted to protect them from Covid-19 and use the time to build health infrastructure in their home states.
“We are sensitive to the migrant workers. In the first month of the lockdown, our main concern was that even if the migrant workers face some difficulty, they should be protected from Covid 19, that these people leave gradually. And when they do, all facilities in their home state are in place, the hospitals are in good shape, the quarantine facilities and doctors are ready. So we started their movement from May 1,” Shah said in an interview to Aaj Tak.
“Throughout April, we made sure they were provided food and shelter and we sent Rs 11,000 crore to collectors to set up camps. From April 20, states had started running buses to ferry migrant workers. This way, 41 lakh migrant workers reached their destination before May 10. These are people who have gone on government expenses,” he added.
“There is rumour that everyone paid for their tickets. I want to make it clear that either states have paid for the tickets or reimbursed after migrants reached their destination. Of this, 85 per cent has been paid by the Centre through Railways,” the Home Minister said.
He said the maximum number of migrants had reached UP and Bihar, but both states had ensured food, shelter and quarantine. “Still, people who lost patience left on their own. They struggled. The Centre through video conference organised a system that buses be run on the highways and these people be taken to railway stations for shelter. And then trains were run from such stations. But there was some chaos in the whole process, I agree. I feel their pain. It would have been nice if they hadn’t left,” Shah said, adding that 1 crore migrant workers have reached home.
On trains taking days to reach their destinations, he said, “The route on which 13 trains normally run, 70 trains were run. This created massive congestion. That is why trains took time to reach. But all the people were provided food.”
Shah said states had supported the Centre’s efforts. While mentioning that West Bengal was reluctant to receive shramik special trains, he said, “We should not look at data to judge who is doing well. Everyone is putting in the best possible efforts. Every state has cooperated with the Centre in the fight against Covid… Leave aside some people with a twisted view… Everyone has appreciated the Modi government.”
“…the entire country has been united in this fight. First people participated in the Janata curfew, then lighting of the lamp and beating of utensils and then the armed forces paying homage to corona warriors. For the first time I saw one nation, one people and one will,” he said, adding, “…people have suffered. Many have died as well. But if we compare India’s situation to the rest of the world, we have done very well under the leadership of Narendra Modi.”
On the crisis on Sino-Indian border in eastern Ladakh, Shah said the matter was being resolved through diplomatic and military channels.
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