Coronavirus Is Much More Than Health Pandemic For Migrant Workers

Bhubaneswar: Swarms of migrant workers at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in New Delhi, Pune Railway Station and on highways struggling to return to their native towns or villages paint a bitter picture of the situation as the nationwide lockdown has put them in a crisis which, for them, is bigger than any health pandemic.

After the Union Government declared the lockdown to contain spread of coronavirus, migrant workers working in major cities started moving to their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha, which itself defeated the purpose of lockdown.

However, instead of coronavirus, the major concern for the workers is food, water and shelter. The lockdown left them jobless and stranded, struggling to make ends meet. Though the migrant workers might be infected from deadly coronavirus, they also lack proper access to medical care.

Supreme Court advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava has filed a petition in this regard in the apex court. He claimed that it is not safe to allow these migrant workers to return home as the infected one will mingle with their village populations and it may exponentially contribute to the increase of the virus with fatal consequences. The apex court is likely to take up this matter on March 30.

At this juncture some milestone steps have been taken by the Odisha Government for its citizens stranded in other States. Odisha Chief Minister on Thursday had appealed his counterparts in other States to assist any person or group of persons from Odisha stranded in their States with basic food, accomodation, security etc.

Besides on Saturday, Patnaik appealed to Odia associations in other States to help stranded fellow Odias with food medicine. He assured that the State Government will reimburse the cost from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF).

Further, a helpline was launched for people of other States stranded in Odisha. All district Collectors and Municipal Commissioners in the State have been directed to use closed school and hostel buildings as temporary shelters to house stranded migrant labourers in their respective districts/municipal corporations and make all basic amenities available to them till the lockdown period is over.

While the Indian Government sanctioned many flights to repatriate its citizens stranded in other countries amid coronavirus crisis, the plight of the migrant workers had gone unseen. Meanwhile, SpiceJet has offered its flight services to carry some migrant workers from Delhi and Mumbai to their native states.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday asked NHAI Chairman and highway concessioners or toll operators to provide food, water and other necessary support to migrant workers. Besides, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to provide all forms of support to the migrant workers.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the migrants on Saturday to stay back in the city during the lockdown and said his government is serving lunch and dinner to over four lakh people at more than 800 locations. He also said that apart from this, mobile vans are also deployed to arrange food for those who cannot reach the locations.

The Centre had on Friday had issued an advisory directing all states and UTs to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter to migrant workers employed in the informal sector, which was on Saturday modified to include clothing and medical care, which culminates into temporary rehabilitation until the public health crisis settles.