A day after thousands of migrant workers – without jobs and essentials because of the coronavirus lockdown – gathered at a Delhi bus station to get to their native towns, the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the states to provide them food and shelter. Ordering the states to enforce the three-week lockdown, the centre on Sunday said the workers who have already left for their hometowns must be put in quarantine for two weeks at the “nearest shelter”.
The order, issued under the Disaster Management Act, said the employers will pay their workers’ wages on due dates without any deduction.
The landlords shall not demand rent from poor workers and migrant labourers for one month, the order said, adding those who would force their tenants out will face action.
“The states and Union territories shall ensure adequate arrangements of temporary shelters, and provisions of food etc. for the poor and needy people, including migrant labourers, stranded due to lockdown measures in their respective areas,” a Home Ministry order to the states read.
“The migrant people who have moved out to reach to their home states/home towns, must be kept in the nearest shelter by the respective state/union territory government quarantine facilities after proper screening for a minimum period of 14 days,” it added.
The centre’s “total lockdown”, meant to halt the spread of a highly infectious novel coronavirus that transmits rapidly in crowded spaces, had suspended all interstate bus and railway services, leaving migrants and their young families no option but to walk hundreds of kilometres on foot.
As harrowing stories of men, women and infants undertaking the punishing trek emerged over the past few days, the Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments responded Saturday by arranging buses to ferry the people home; the UP government said it had organised 1,000 buses and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said 200 DTC buses would also be pressed into service.
After the announcements, thousands of people gathered at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus station, violating the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure social distancing, which he described as the only option in the battle against coronavirus.
Coronavirus has killed 25 people in India; over 950 have been infected with the deadly disease. The global number of deaths due to the virus has crossed 20,000.