MHA allows migrant workers, stranded students to return home by bus; new social distancing, sanitation guidelines to be followed
In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said buses shall be used for transport of such groups of stranded migrants.
In a big step towards the relief of the migrant workers, tourists, students and other people, who are stranded in different parts of the India due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Centre on Wednesday has allowed their movement to their respective states but under strict guidelines. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued new set of guidelines on social distancing which everyone travelling to their states must follow.
These guidelines will come into effect from 4 May.
In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said buses shall be used for transport of such groups of stranded people and these vehicles will be sanitised and will have to follow safe social distancing norms in seating.
"Due to lockdown, migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons are stranded at different places. They would be allowed to move," he said in an order issued to all states and union territories.
Listing the conditions, the ministry said all states and union territories should designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons.
The nodal authorities shall also register the stranded persons within their states and union territories, it said.
In case a group of stranded persons wish to move between one state and union territory and another state and union territory, the sending and receiving states may consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road.
The moving persons would be screened and those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed, according to the home ministry.
The states and union territories falling on the bus transit route will allow the passage of such persons to the receiving states and union territories, it said.
On arrival at their destination, such persons would be assessed by the local health authorities, and kept in home quarantine, unless the assessment requires keeping the persons in institutional quarantine, the order said.
They would be kept under watch with periodic health check-ups, it said.
Reacting to the Centre's announcement, P Chidambaram said:
I welcome the decision of the government to allow inter-state movement of migrant workers and students after testing them by bus.
This has been a demand of the Congress party since mid-April.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) April 29, 2020
Measures taken by state governments so far
Several states had been asking the Centre to allow travel of migrants back to their native states. Last week, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had written to railway minister Piyush Goyal seeking special trains after 3 May. He said in the letter that migrant labourers in the state were growing increasingly restless and are hoping that train services resume, according to the Economic Times.
On 13 April, more than 1,000 migrant workers had gathered outside the station in Mumbai's Bandra, demanding transport facility to go back to their hometowns, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the lockdown till 3 May.
Other states have also announced measures to enable migrants to return home.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote letters to his counterparts to extend support to Odisha’s citizens stranded in the respective states and also offered reimbursement of funds being spend on the stranded migrant workers.
The Jharkhand government launched a mobile app ‘Chief Ministers Special Assistance Scheme’, to help with the registration of the stranded labourers. Through the app, an emergency financial assistance is to be extended to the labourers.
With inputs from PTI
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