Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said that arranging special buses to send people to their native states amid a three-week nationwide lockdown over coronavirus or COVID-19 will lead to an “increase in the spread” of the virus. “This entire exercise to send back people to their (native) states by special buses will defeat the purpose of lockdown. It will lead to an increase in the spread of virus in the next few days,” he told NDTV today.
“It is better to organise camps locally, instead of trying to send people back home. The state government will reimburse the costs of these camps organised by anyone,” he added.
The state has sanctioned Rs 100 crore for shelter and food of locals stuck in other states. Officials from any district or non-profits coming forward to help the stranded locals can approach the Nitish Kumar government for funds.
The 69-year-old JDU chief’s comments come amid criticism over lack of preparedness by the states and centre as tens of thousands have been left stranded in different parts of the country, far away from their homes, with transport services shut.
A 21-day lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to contain COVID-19 pandemic, worst since the SARS outbreak in 2003. Nitish Kumar, a BJP ally, had earlier opposed running of special trains and ensured that movement of trains and flights also stopped.
Migrant workers across the country, desperate to return home due to the uncertainty over food and shelter after the lockdown, have been facing immense difficulties since the lockdown began. Heartbreaking stories have come across of many trying to reach home on foot with no other option left. This afternoon, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that highway authorities have been told to offer support all those trying to reach their destinations.
I have advised Chairman NHAI and Highway Concessioners/ Toll Operators to consider providing food, water or any kind of support to migrant workers/citizens who are trying to reach to their respective native places.
— Nitin Gadkari (@nitin_gadkari) March 28, 2020
The state governments in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are arranging special buses for these migrants. In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s office tweeted this afternoon: “The state government has arranged 1,000 buses for those trying to leave the state amid lockdown so that they can reach their destinations without facing any difficiculty.”
While in Delhi, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia today tweeted an appeal to obey the lockdown. “Delhi government’s 100 buses and 200 buses by UP government are being arranged for migrant workers. But, I still appeal to all of you to obey the lockdown. This is the only way to control the spread of the disease. It’s not safe to go out,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Minutes later, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal shared the tweet and wrote in Hindi: “UP and Delhi – both governments have arranged buses. But I appeal to all of you to stay where you are. In our Delhi, arrangements have been made for food and accommodation. Please stay at your home. Don’t go back to your (native village). Or else, the purpose of lockdown will be defeated.”