NEW DELHI: With reports of thousands of migrant labourers on the highways and stranded at various places, the Centre has sent an urgent advisory to states asking them to provide food and shelter to unorganised sector workers to ensure they stay where they are and do not take to the roads during the ongoing 21-day national lockdown.
The home ministry has stressed that the lockdown is intended to ensure people stay where they are as mass movement from cities to the hinterland will defeat the purpose of the exercise intended to ensure social distancing and isolation to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission and prevent a wider, potentially much more dangerous, community spread that might overwhelm the healthcare system.
More on Covid-19
Coronavirus pandemic: Complete Coverage21-day lockdown: What will stay open and what won’tHow to quarantine yourself at homeTrust the newspaper for your daily verified news
The Centre has said that daily wagers be provided support and sustenance as well as an outreach aimed at reassuring them that the lockdown will not mean lack of food and shelter and will not last beyond a stipulated time.
“The idea behind the lockdown is that people should stay where they are,” said Salila Srivastava, joint secretary in the home ministry, during the daily official briefing on the Covid-19 situation.
Home secretary Ajay Bhalla has urged all states and UTs to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter, to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganised sector workers. All states and UTs have been advised to ensure that students and working women from other states are also allowed to continue in their existing accommodation during the lockdown.
The lines of migrant workers walking back long distances to their homes have been triggered in part by the economic shutdown, which has deprived daily wagers of earnings and also because many are worried about how long the current situation will last.
The advisory — which came in the wake of reports of migrant workers heading back to home towns on foot in view of suspension of train and bus services — suggests that states involve agencies, including NGOs, to provide food and shelter as well as basic amenities such as clean drinking water and sanitation to unorganised sector workers, particularly stranded migrant workers.
Further, states have been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the government, including provision of free food grains and other essential items through the public distribution system (PDS). This, it is hoped, would help prevent avoidable movement of such people, according to the advisory.
The MHA has also advised that states and UTs to ensure that hotels, rented accommodations and hostels continue to remain functional and delivery of essential items is streamlined so that students, working women and hostel inmates are allowed to continue in existing facilities, while observing social distancing.
While ensuring supply of essential goods and services, states are being repeatedly directed to enforce the lockdown strictly and take action against violators under various provisions of law. This is imperative to contain the spread of Covid-19, the home ministry has underlined.