Chandigarh, May 1: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to advise Railway Ministry to make special arrangements for migrants to return homes.
“Estimates indicate that nearly one million workers will need transport to go back to their states. The only feasible option in the circumstances was to arrange special trains, which the Railways may run from point to point, keeping in view the number of persons to be transported to a given destination,” Punjab CM wrote in the letter.
Noting that since many other states might also be facing a similar situation, the Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister’s intervention in the matter, urging him to advise the Ministry of Railways to make special arrangements to ensure that these migrant workers reach
their destination safely.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had, on Wednesday, allowed inter-state movement of migrant workers, while directing that “buses shall be used for transport of a group of persons, of course after proper sanitization and maintaining social distancing norms in seating.”
Captain Amarinder pointed out that a large number of migrant workers who had come to Punjab for jobs/employment from Bihar, UP, and Jharkhand intended to return to their respective states due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
“These workers are engaged both in agriculture and industries. However most of them either lost their jobs or could not find employment/work due to curfew imposed in the state to contain coronavirus,” he wrote.
In response to the Centre’s advisory on the return of stranded migrants and others, Singh directed all District Collectors (DCs) to prepare state-wise data of migrant labourers to coordinate their movement, even as he urged PM Modi to arrange for point-to-point special trains for the transportation of such persons.
The Chief Minister also announced that one officer had been assigned to each state for coordinating the return of stranded migrants.
During a video conference with the state’s DCs and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSPs), the Chief Minister said he has written to the Prime Minister with regard to the transportation of the migrants. He pointed out that Ludhiana alone had over seven lakh migrant labourers, with the whole of Punjab having over a million of them.
Though data was still being collated, approximately 70 per cent of the labourers in Punjab hailed from Bihar, the Chief Minister said, adding that the movement of such large numbers was possible only through trains, with proper screening to be done at the time of departure.
The Chief Minister asked the DCs to, in the meantime, start preparing a database of migrant labourers, state-wise, to ensure their smooth return.
In response to concerns expressed over shortage of food packets in some districts in view of the extended lockdown, the Chief Minister directed the Food Department to increase the quota of rations to be distributed to migrants and non-smart cardholders. “Nobody should remain hungry,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh informed the VC that as per the protocols, the DCs have to get the migrants in their respective districts screened and give certificates, following which the state control room is required to provide the concerned state with the details of the migrant with a contact number. There was no ban on sending the migrants in private buses, he clarified in response to a concern raised by DC Ludhiana in this regard.