Govt allows transport of stranded people across states

Centre allows stranded people to be transported to their home states amid lockdown

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order amending the April 15 revised guidelines on the COVID-19 lockdown

Representative image (PTI Photo)

Amid rising demands for allowing stranded workers and students to be transported to their native places, the Centre on Wednesday allowed their inter-state travel by road by putting in place a mechanism for all those who are holed up in different parts of the country after a mandatory screening that confirms they are asymptomatic before the journey.

No individual will be allowed to travel on his own, as only states are allowed to make arrangements for the journey by buses following which measures should be taken for their quarantine in homes or institutional centres.

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order amending the April 15 revised guidelines on the COVID-19 lockdown in this regard to allow migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and others stranded at different places.

This comes just four days ahead of the end of current phase of lockdown on May 3 and amid demands from a section of states to extend the restrictions for at least a fortnight.

Migrant workers had risen in protest in Gujarat's Surat, Maharashtra's Bandra and Telangana's Hyderabad in recent times demanding that they be sent back home. Some states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal have also transported stranded students and pilgrims from other states while Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had expressed concern over such moves earlier.

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram welcomed the move by the Centre to allow stranded people to be transported to their homes, saying this has been his party's demand since mid-April. However, he said buses alone will not be sufficient and suggested that "it is better to run sanitised trains point-to-point to move the large numbers who desire to migrate back to their home states".

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who had earlier raised a similar demand for running special trains to transport migrant workers, told DH, “finally after a month of imposing agony, hunger and deprivation on crores of migrant workers, the Narendra Modi government has now permitted their return to their homes. Once again it has passed the buck to the states instead of liberally financing them.”

According to the order, in case a group of stranded person wish to move between states, both the states must consult each other and mutually agree to the movement by road. The states falling on the transit route will allow the passage of such persons.

Those who want to travel should be screened and those found asymptomatic would be allowed to proceed in buses, which will be sanitised. Safe social distancing norms should be followed in buses, the order said.

On arrival at the destination, such people would be assessed by the local health authorities and keep in home quarantine, unless the assessment requires keeping them in institutional quarantine.

"They would be kept under watch with periodic health check-ups. For this purpose, such persons may be encouraged to use Aarogya Setu App through which their health status can be monitored," the order said.

Yechury said the crisis was due to the manner in which Modi announced the lockdown giving no time for the states or the workers to prepare themselves.

“The Centre is passing the buck. Now, the states have to arrange for the buses and fund entirely the responsibility of providing health facilities while the Modi government does not help the states, which are actually on the battle front,” he added.