In wake of disrupted essential supplies and scores of migrant workers moving to their native places on foot following the nationwide lockdown, Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday held a video-conferencing with chief ministers of various states.
Shah is learnt to have discussed the prevailing situation over COVID-19 and the issues associated with the lockdown. Shah, sources said, asked them to sort out issues with essential supplies and provide help to migrant workers.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday issued an advisory to all states to ensure accommodation and food for out-of-work migrant labour so that they do not move across states. Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has written to chief secretaries of all states to rope in NGOs and other such organisations to provide food and shelter to such people.
Bhalla has also asked them to keep hotels and hostels functional so that students do not move across borders, and the objective of social distancing to contain COVID-19 is sustained.
The ministry said in a statement: “The Union Home Secretary has written to all States/UTs to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter, to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the 21-day Nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. Similarly, States/UTs have been advised to take steps to ensure that students, working women from other States, etc. are also allowed to continue in their existing accommodation.”
An MHA official said, “This massive movement of people defeats the whole purpose of a lockdown. It is difficult to even track down their movement completely. It has to be stopped. The last thing the government wants to handle is spread of infections in rural areas. But their problems are genuine, and they have to be facilitated by states.”
The advisory suggests that in order to mitigate the situation, states/UTs need to explore measures by involving various agencies, including NGOs, to provide food and shelter with basic amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation etc.
The MHA also stated: “States/UTs have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the Government including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the distribution system…”
The advisory has asked states to ensure hotels, rented accommodation and hostels remain functional “so that students, working women hostel inmates etc. are allowed to continue in existing facilities, while observing precautions.”
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