Chandigarh, April 30 (IANS) After the Centre’s advisory on return of stranded migrants and others, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, here on Thursday, asked the Deputy Commissioners to prepare state-wise data of migrant labourers to coordinate their movement.
He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrange point-to-point special trains for their transport. During a virtual meeting with officials, the Chief Minister said he had written to the Prime Minister about their transport.
The Chief Minister said one officer had been assigned to each state for coordinating return of migrants. Ludhiana alone had over 700,000 migrant labourers and the whole of Punjab, over a million, he said.
Though data was still being collated, around 70 per cent of labourers belonged to Bihar, he said. The movement of such a large number of people would be possible only through trains, with proper screening at the time of departure.
On concern over shortage of food packets in some districts in view of the extended lockdown, the Chief Minister asked the Food Department to increase the ration quota to be distributed to migrants and non-smartcard holders. “Nobody should remain hungry,” he said.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister said given the large number of workers stranded due to the lockdown, use of buses for transportation would not work.
“Estimates indicate that nearly one million workers will need transport to return to their states,” he said and added, the only feasible option in this case was to arrange “special trains, which the Railways may run from point to point, keeping in view the number of persons to be transported to a given destination.”
Noting that since many other states might also be facing a similar situation, the Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister’s intervention, urging him to advise the Ministry of Railways to make special arrangements to ensure safe return of migrant workers.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had, on Wednesday, allowed inter-state movement of migrant workers, while stating “buses shall be used for transport of a group of persons, of course, after proper sanitization and maintaining social distancing norms in seating”.
He said stranded workers were engaged in agriculture as well as industries. “But most of them either lost their jobs or could not find employment or work due to curfew imposed in the state to contain coronavirus,” he wrote.
Though his government had tried its best to take care of the stranded migrants, who were needed for the state’s industries and agriculture, by providing food, shelter and other basic amenities, most of them, unfortunately, still wished to return to their native places, he said.
The Chief Minister expressed the hope that the Prime Minister would appreciate the situation and advice the Ministry of Railways accordingly.