Bihar plans to bring over 20 lakh migrant workers home
Slammed by migrant workers for abandoning them to fend for themselves, the Bihar government on Tuesday said it will be bringing over 20 lakh migrants to the state over the next few days. They will be brought back in about 800 trains. India was jolted by the exodus of workers, who were left with no jobs due to nationwide lockdown. Here are more details.
According to reports, over 8 lakh migrant workers have returned, but government officials are worried about fewer quarantine facilities. Amid the trouble, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi declared, "From now on, 100 specials trains will run daily to bring back migrants to Bihar. After an agreement between Bihar and the Central government, altogether 800 trains will operate to bring back over 20 lakh migrants."
The return of workers comes with its own set of problems and is extremely likely to overwhelm Bihar's poor health-care system. As per Indian Express, a worrying number of migrant workers have tested positive. Most of them were asymptomatic. Till May 18, Bihar tested 8,337 samples of workers and 8% tested positive. Of 835 who were tested after returning from Delhi, 218 tested positive.
Similarly, of 390 Haryana returnees, who were tested, 36 reported positive. The positivity rate comes out to be 9% when Haryana's rate is 1.16%. Likewise, of the 265 samples of workers who came from West Bengal, 33 tested positive. The rate comes to be 12% when Bengal's positivity rate is 3%. Of 1,283 samples of those who returned from Maharashtra, 141 tested positive.
But for migrants, carrying the virus isn't a huge concern, reaching home is. On Tuesday, horrifying scenes played out in Mumbai when over 2,000 workers gathered near Bandra Terminus to board a Bihar-bound train. One Shramik train can ferry 1,700 workers. Police dispersed the crowd around 2 pm. Officials said even those who weren't registered came to board the train.
"The train was scheduled for Purnia. Many people who weren't registered and not called by the state gathered on the bridge and the road leading to the station. Registered passengers were checked and allowed to enter the station," said chief PRO, Western Railway, Ravinder Bhakar.
Meanwhile, the Centre tweaked its earlier rule which said that states have to give consent for receiving migrants. "Consent of terminating state not necessary to run Shramik Special trains. After the new SoP, the implication is that no consent of receiving state is mandatory," Railway spokesperson Rajesh Bajpai said. The government has run over 1,500 trains to send migrants home.
This decision comes in the backdrop of the Centre's allegation that states ruled by the opposition weren't allowing trains. Denying that states have been ignored, an MHA official said, "Without active coordination between sending and receiving states and with Railways, how can this set-up function? States have to proactively requisition trains, based on inputs from district authorities. Only then, Railways can allocate more trains."