Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi on Thursday demanded that the Centre run special trains to ferry migrant workers and students, saying the state government couldn’t arrange transport on its own to bring back 27 lakh migrants all the way from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Principal secretary (health) Sanjay Kumar said in Patna that all returnees would be screened on arrival, but there was no clarity on the scale of infrastructure required to quarantine the teeming masses who are set to return.
Rajasthan started moving out around 40,000 of the 2.8 lakh stranded migrant workers from various states who have registered for evacuation even as it braced for the return of more than five times that figure over the next few weeks. Till Thursday evening, six lakh migrants had registered through a central helpline and other platforms created by the state government.
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“We have readied 1,400-odd isolation centres across the state to quarantine anyone who returns with symptoms of influenza-like illnesses,” additional chief secretary Subodh Agarwal said.
In UP, which is expecting between 10 and 15 lakh migrant workers to return, CM Yogi Adityanath appealed to those stranded in various states not to start walking back. “Continue demonstrating the patience that you have shown till now — do not start walking. Contact the government of the state you are in. We are in talks with state governments for your safe return,” he said.
Officially, 14 days of quarantine “in the host states” is mandatory before coming back to UP. A senior government official said in Lucknow that state-run buses would bring back people either from the borders or the states where they have registered for evacuation. More than 11,000 people have already returned from Haryana, based on this protocol.
On Monday, the UP government’s Maharashtra helplines were deluged with 97,754 calls. The Delhi helplines logged around 45,000 calls the same day.
Maharashtra on Thursday issued fresh guidelines for inter and intra-state movement of stranded people wanting to return home. Nobody will be allowed to enter or leave the state without a permit from the respective district collector. All registered vehicles will be issued a transit pass each for a fixed route with specific validity, mentioning the names of the passengers. A control room has been set up at the Mantralaya to coordinate the effort.
In Himachal’s Kangra district, there was unrest among the local population over nearly 15,000 people arriving over the past three days and allegedly refusing to be quarantined. Following multiple complaints, police shared a blurred image of a returnee couple from Jaisinghpur who had been booked for violating home quarantine. The image was shared with a warning asking all new arrivals to stay home. District magistrate Rakesh Kumar Prajapati said passes won’t be issued for the time being, although around 50,000 applications are pending.
Gujarat, which has 5-7 lakh migrants waiting to return to UP, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, has authorised district collectors to issue travel passes after medical screening. About 10,000 migrant workers from neighbouring MP and Rajasthan have already been dropped at the borders of these two states. Those wanting to return can register online on the government’s digital portal. They will be issued online passes after verification.
MP has already taken back around 1.5 lakh labourers over the past month, most of them walking for hundreds of kilometres. The government expects to bring back around 15,000 more. Migrant workers have been identified and registered on a portal so that the administration can finalise transport, officials said.
Nearly 2 lakh Bengal migrants stranded in other states, however, might not be able to return home even after entering the state. Those who have their homes in Bengal’s 444 containment zones will have to stay elsewhere.
Odisha, whose CM Naveen Patnaik on Monday asked PM Narendra Modi to put in place a standard operating procedure for movement of stranded people, estimates that between 7 and 10 lakh people will return.
Assam has pegged the number of returnees at 1.5 lakh, all of whom are required to register through a portal and await travel permits. Entry will be in batches, based on a system. The state government has sought the civil aviation ministry’s permission to airlift 859 people who had gone to Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Vellore and Bengaluru for medical treatment and got stranded.
Kerala started online registration on Wednesday for those stranded in other states and wishing to return. Till Thursday noon, 85,000 people had registered, most of them from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.