The Home Office (MHA) told Lok Sabha on Tuesday that the exodus of migrant workers from cities to villages in their home states was triggered by false news about the duration of the imposed blockade as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (Covid19 ).
Migrant workers were also concerned about the availability of basic necessities such as food, drinking water, access to health services and housing during the March 25 blockade, she said.
Responding to a question posed in Lok Sabha, State Minister for Home Nityanand Rai said the central government had been “fully aware” of the concerns of migrant workers and took steps to ensure that during the “inevitable blockade” that followed the blast from the pandemic, no citizen is deprived of basic amenities of food, drinking water, medical equipment, etc.
Read also: Lok Sabha nods to bill 30% lawmakers’ one-year pay cut due to Covid crisis
Speculation, including in the media, about how long the blockade and loss of livelihoods would last after the closure of factories and business institutions to curb the spread of the disease contributed to the reverse migration of workers to their home states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand. The general blockade lasted 68 days before the government began easing restrictions.
About 10.4 million migrants traveled back home during the blockade, the government informed Parliament on Monday, saying there were no data on job losses among migrant workers since the blast.
To alleviate the problems faced by migrant workers, the Center set up control rooms in the home ministry under the supervision of senior officials at the level of joint secretary and composed of representatives of key central ministries, the MHA said on Tuesday.
“These control rooms, inter alia, participated in the complaints of trapped persons, including migrant workers, and immediately resolved these complaints concerning food, transport, housing, etc. The States and the Territories of the Union were also advised to establish control rooms with help lines and appoint nodal officers, “Rai said in a written response.
The state minister added that the Center also allowed state governments to seize the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to arrange temporary accommodation and provide food, clothing and medical care for migrant workers as well as the homeless.
“To increase funding with states, the Central government issued an advance of Rs 11,092 kora from SDRF to states on April 3, 2020,” he added.
Asked by Congressman Manish Tewari why the nationwide blockade was imposed with a four-hour notice, the minister said the decision was taken to prevent any mass movement. “Covid-19 is a very infectious disease. “Any mass movement of people would spread the disease very quickly among people in all parts of the country,” Rai said.
“By imposing the blockade all over the country, India has successfully shut down the aggressive spread of Covid-19,” he added.
The blockade period also helped the nation strengthen its health infrastructure to treat Covid-19, according to the minister, who cited efforts to significantly increase the number of dedicated isolation beds and the intensive care unit (ICU) for patients with viral infection. and to develop local capabilities to produce personal protective equipment, masks and ventilators.
According to the government, the blockade, slowing the progression of the pandemic, has prevented about 1.4 to 2.9 million Covid-19 cases and 37,000 to 78,000 deaths.
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