Rajat Sharma

With lakhs of migrants returning, the writing on the wall is clear: the virus is spreading

AKB2610As the total number of Coronavirus cases in India crossed the one-lakh threshold on Monday night, there are causes for concern among public health planners. There was a single day spike of 4,713 fresh cases on Monday, though the recovery rate has improved with 48,908 recovering from the dreaded COVID-19 disease.

The pandemic has now entered the critical stage in India and all of us need to be on our guard. On Monday, there were reports of huge crowds in Ghaziabad, Meerut, Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad throwing social distancing norms to the winds. Just imagine how the virus might have spread among the crowds.

I would again appeal to all of you: please do not take the fourth phase of lockdown lightly. The government may have given relaxations, but this does not mean everybody should come out on the roads. This will be a sure recipe to disaster.

Several thousand migrants gathered at the Ram Lila ground in Ghaziabad on Monday for registration. They wanted to return to Bihar. Three special trains ran on Monday from Ghaziabad, while three other trains ran from other UP districts to Bihar. In all, nearly 7,000 migrants were sent in special trains on a single day. On Monday evening, extra police force had to be deployed in Ghaziabad to bring order.

There was chaos at Meerut station when a large number of migrants forcibly entered the 22 coaches meant for transporting 1,600 workers. The migrants jostled to occupy seats inside the special train ignoring social distancing norms.

I request all migrants: please do not panic. The Centre and state governments have now allowed inter-state travel by buses and special trains. Till now, more than 17 lakh migrants have been sent to their home states and more special trains and buses are in the pipeline.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, despite his excellent style of management, is worried over one serious trend. Migrant are being loaded in trucks from Maharashtra and Rajasthan by extorting exorbitant fares and then dropped at the UP border, to walk the remaining distance on foot.

At Palwal-Mathura border, India TV reporter found a truck carrying 65 migrants, including 20 children, who had been brought all the way inside a truck from Maharashtra.

Rumour mills are working overtime to misguide and goad the migrants to leave. On Monday, a mysterious message appeared on the cellphones of several migrants that special buses would be running from Vastrapur in Ahmedabad. A huge crowd collected on IIM road demanding buses to return to their home states. The crowd attacked police with sticks and iron rods and there was stone pelting. Police had to resort to lathi charge and tear gas shells to control the situation.

A similar rumour circulated in Delhi’s West Vinod Nagar and hundreds of migrants collected at a school to collect medical certificates for returning home.

On Monday, India TV spoke to most of the chief ministers about the migrants problem. Almost all of them agreed that the time for persuading migrants to stay home was now over, and arrangements must be made so that they reach their home states safely.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and others agreed that state governments must cooperate among themselves to ensure that these migrants return home safely.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal came up with a new idea. He said, more than four lakh migrants have registered their names online till now for returning home. He said, the current procedure was time consuming. The recipient state governments must agree for return of their natives, and only then the lists are forwarded to Railways for preparing tickets.

Kejriwal suggested that migrants from Bihar, UP, Jharkhand or other states can be accommodated state-wise in different stadiums. There they will be provided food, and nearly 100 special trains can be arranged for sending migrants to their destinations on a single day.

I spoke to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal about this. He said, the recipient states must first agree to receive the migrants, make arrangements for their quarantine and arrange buses to take them from stations to their villages. All this needs to be fine tuned. I think Kejriwal’s idea is good, but it needs to be implemented with the cooperation of other chief ministers.

The Railways have so far run 1,530 special trains for workers and more than half of these trains went to UP. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said that he is willing to give as many trains as the states want. He went so far as to offer a special train even at an hour’s notice.

With the rising graph of the pandemic, we must be ready to face a serious challenge. Transporting 14 lakh migrants to their home states is alright, but many of these migrants have become carriers of the virus. MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday said that even districts marked as green zones are now having fresh cases due to influx of migrants.

I am citing only one instance from Bihar. The number of Corona cases in Bihar has touched 1,400, out of which 652 are those who have migrated from other states. Out of them, 594 are those who returned in special trains on May 3. The maximum number of infected migrants (221) are from Delhi-NCR, 143 from Maharashtra and 130 from Gujarat. We must read the ominous writing on the wall.

Click Here to Watch Full Video | Get connected on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Comments are closed.