Bus to home: How Yogi government is trying to turn migrant challenge into an opportunity
At present, lakhs of migrant workers across the country are hoping to return home. However, the Union home ministry had, on 28 March, asked all states to seal borders and take care of migrant labourers wherever they are.
In March, there was a huge rush of migrants eager to get home, which put pressure on state governments. But now, state governments are acting according to a plan, closely co-ordinating with other states and the Centre. While many states are making efforts to bring migrants back, Uttar Pradesh seems to have taken the lead.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is facing a tough challenge on this count. The state is the most populous in the country, and a large number of people from this state go to other states to earn their livelihood. Adityanath's government managed not only to bring thousands of migrant labouters back from Delhi in a time span of 24 hours, but also did so while following protocols of social distancing. The Uttar Pradesh government also brought back around 8,000 students, mostly minors, from Kota in Rajasthan by bus. Subsequently, other state governments followed suit, including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Assam and Maharashtra.
Earlier, other states had petitioned the Centre to allow the return of migrants. However, the Yogi Adityanath government went a step forward and publicly announced that it would bring all migrants back to the state. This is being done in a phased manner, irrespective of whether the national lockdown is extended beyond 3 May. A beginning has been made by bring migrants from Haryana back to Uttar Pradesh.
Bringing migrants from Haryana was relatively easy as it is a neighbouring state. However, the situation will be more difficult when it comes to states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Buses would take several days to reach these states and return. Further, if social distancing norms are followed, a bus can accommodate only a few people. It will become clear in the coming days whether the Uttar Pradesh can convince the Centre to allow special trains for this purpose.
Adityanath has appointed a nodal officer in each state and is in the process of preparing a database of persons willing to return to the state, their background and their native place in Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking to Firstpost, the state's energy minister Shrikant Sharma said, “The government is conscious of the challenges but is determined to convert them into opportunities. The idea is to create such conditions of employment generation that those who have returned home in a state of physical and emotional turmoil need not go back. We are trying to ensure that most of them find livelihood in the state itself. This would also enable them to live with their loved ones. The people are reposing faith in the measures that we are taking."
All ministers have been given charge of some districts. In these districts, the ministers are expected to co-ordinate with various government departments and fix responsibilities. In 19 sensitive districts, the state government has also decided to appoint 57 nodal officers.
The Uttar Pradesh government has already distributed Rs 280 crore as maintenance allowance to 27,78,000 workers of the state. Around Rs 525 crore was paid to 36,000 industrial units and over 6603 closed units were restarted.
Mritunjay Kumar, media advisor to the chief minister, says that what has made a difference in Uttar Pradesh is “Yogiji’s ability to think ahead and implement plans at an unprecedented speed. That has completely changed the response mechanism of the state government.”