The Centre has filed a fresh status report in the Supreme Court on steps taken to deal with the COVID-19 situation, including efforts to solve the problems faced by migrant labour in the wake of the nationwide lockdown.
In an affidavit dated April 12, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said that a total of 37,978 relief camps had been set up for migrant labourers by the states, Union territories and NGOs and nearly 14.3 lakh people had been housed in them. Additionally, 26,225 food camps had been opened, giving food to nearly 1.34 crore people, and nearly 16.5 lakh workers had been given shelter and food by their respective employers, the government said.
To ensure that no further problem is faced by migrant workers and other poor sections, directions have been issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005 that all employers, be it in the industry or shops, and / or other commercial establishments shall pay wages to their workers at their workplaces on the due date without any deduction for the period of closure during the lockdown.
District authorities have also been told to ensure that migrant workers and other poor people who are living in rented accommodation shall not be compelled to pay rent by landlords. Any landlord who flouts this direction, said the affidavit, shall be liable for action under the Disaster Management Act.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has been asked to ensure adequate availability of essential medicines in all pharmacies, it said, adding that special efforts have been made by the government to provide drugs to HIV patients. A guidance note has been sent to all states on dispensation of these drugs, the affidavit said.
The government said that apart from measures to ensure availability of food grains, harvesting has been allowed to continue uninterrupted. Indian Council for Agriculture has issued an advisory to farmers for harvesting of rabi crop and sowing of summer crop. Department of Chemicals and Fertilizers is making all efforts to ensure adequate supply of fertilisers for the kharif season, it said.
On the efforts of Indian Railways, the government said the Railways had ensured uninterrupted supply of essential commodities through 24×7 freight operations. From March 24 till April 9, 6.11 lakh wagons have moved to keep the supply chain functional. Railways also served 10.1 lakh free meals till April 9.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation operated 180 flights, which transported 258 tonnes of medical cargo, flying an aerial distance of 1,66,076 km till April 12, the government said.