Lucknow: The pan-India lockdown due to Covid-19 outbreak has turned into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for the poorest of the poor.
The plight of migrant workers of India’s most populous State -- Uttar Pradesh -- who were compelled to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach their hometown after losing livelihood and suspension of transport services seems to be a beginning with no end.
On Saturday, when the Yogi Adityanath government decided to ease the lockdown and plied 1,000 buses to ferry the workers, they were happy and relaxed that the government had finally come forward to help them in a time of acute distress. However, it emerged later that the bus services were not for free. Scores of migrants en route to different destinations told local reporters that were forced to buy tickets.
“We had to shell out the prescribed bus fare,” the workers alleged and showed the tickets. While many reached their destination, hundreds of them were stuck across the State as buses were too few. Nonetheless, all of them will have to be quarantined for 14-days, now.
Alarmed at UP’s move to run buses and trucks amid lockdown, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday called the movement of migrant labourers in large number as a “violation of lockdown.”
The ministry issued detailed directive asking all States and Union territories to restrict the movement of workers, put them up in temporary shelters for 14 days and screen them to contain the spread of the disease which has already infected over 1,000 persons in India and killed 25. After the MHA order, entire UP administration went into overdrive.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed all district magistrates to trace over 1.5 lakh migrants who have returned to the state in the last three days, quarantine them in state-run camps and ensure arrangements for their food and other daily needs.
"All of these migrant labourers have to stay in govt camps for 14 days. They would not be allowed to return to their homes. A direction in this regard has been given to ‘gram pradhans’ over phone," Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said.
The Yogi government also directed all employers, industrial and commercial both, to provide full salary to the workers. Besides, landlords have been asked to postpone rent collection until the lockdown ends.