A day before the Centre revoked the clause of states’ consent for the movement of migrant workers through railways, it had written to all states asking them to requisition more trains from the Centre, ply more buses, alleviate the fear of long quarantine and adequately publicise the arrangements made for their travel.
The May 18 letter sent to all states by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) came in the backdrop of migrants continuing to hit the road due to limited availability of trains and buses.
The letter signed by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “As you may be aware fear of COVID-19 infection and apprehension of loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers towards their homes.”
It said, “District Authorities may be directed to request Ministry of Railways for running trains, where required and ensure that no migrant worker has to resort to walking on roads or railway tracks to reach his destination. As you may be aware, Area officers in Ministry of Home Affairs already assisting State Nodal officers and Railway Nodal officers in the movement of stranded labour. We would be happy to facilitate the process further.”
In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, the letter said, “Operation of more special trains by pro-active coordination between States and with Ministry of Railways”, “increase in number of buses” and “allowing entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-state border was required”.
To ensure migrants did not walk on the roads, the letter said, “for routes where the migrants are known to be already travelling on foot, an arrangement could be made by the States, which are en route, for designated rest places, taking into account requirement of sanitation, food and health.”
These rest places were cited as being bus shelters and train stations.
To ensure that migrants do not take the road for the fear of quarantine, MHA asked states for “alleviation of notion of long quarantine at rest places by District Authorities/ NGO workers” apart from making “adequate arrangement of food, health care and counselling to encourage the workers to remain at places where they are.”
It also asked states to ensure more clarity about departure of trains/ buses “as lack of clarity coupled with rumours caused unrest amongst the workers”.
For contact tracing it has asked authorities to enlist migrants with their addresses and contact numbers and pay special attention to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers.