Maharashtra prepares to send migrants home as Centre gives green light

Updated: Apr 30, 2020, 07:50 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The Union home ministry order makes medical screening at source point and destination mandatory, but says nothing about who will bear the travel expenses of the migrants

Clearing the path for those stranded at different places across the country, the Union home ministry issued orders to state governments and union territories to facilitate their movement within and between states. It has further said that individuals should be medically screened at the source point and destination and kept in home or institutional quarantine on arrival as per the COVID-19 guidelines issued earlier.

The decision comes after many of the chief ministers demanded the same at the meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, since trains would not be allowed to operate anytime soon, those stranded will have to be ferried by road. Some states, like Maharashtra, have already prepared a plan to send migrants to their respective destinations in buses. It has already sent buses to fetch students from Kota, of which one batch arrived in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday morning.

Inter-state movement
The order says that stranded people include migrant workers, pilgrims, students, tourists and other persons. It also mentions that the inter-state movement should be planned by the states and mutually agreed upon to transport people by road and that the states should develop a standard protocol with nodal officers (offices), where the stranded people would be required to register their details. The moving person(s) should be screened at the source point and allowed to travel if found asymptomatic. Buses should be sanitised and social distancing should be followed while seating passengers.

The ministry has also asked states falling on the transit route to allow the movement without any glitch. Passengers would be kept in home quarantine on arrival unless the health assessment requires the person(s) to stay in institutional quarantine. The home- quarantined people would be checked periodically.

No clarity on footing the bill
Sources in the Maharashtra government said that they had expected the order, but rued that it did not have clarity on who would pay the travel bills. "Ideally, the people who have the money should pay or their respective state governments should pay for the long and expensive travel. The UP government paid for the students and migrants from Kota and Delhi. Maharashtra also made arrangements to bring back students from Kota," said a bureaucrat in the know of the matter.

He further said that the government has kept thousands of state transport buses ready for the purpose. "We are in talks with the states. The order, which must be complied with by all unlike advisories in the past, should make the states respond to our appeal. The cost factor should also be sorted out when we negotiate in the wake of the new order," added the bureaucrat.

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