Ranchi: Nearly three lakh people from Jharkhand, mostly labourers, stranded in various states due to the lockdown have registered to return home, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said on Thursday, and asserted that they will be brought back without any "ifs and buts".
Jharkhand is the only state which has made advance payments for receiving its people coming from other states through 'Shramik Special' trains, according to railway sources.
Soren also slammed the Centre for charging 15 percent of the rail travel cost from the state, saying no relief was given to Jharkhand despite it being a source of high revenue for the railways.
In an interview, the chief minister said about 20,000 migrant labourers and students stranded in other states due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown have already returned to the state since the Centre allowed the movement.
An online registration process has also been started by the Jharkhand government for stranded migrants wanting to return home.
"About three lakh people have registered for returning home since we started the online process about four-five days ago. And the registration is still on," Soren said.
He, however, added that everyone who has registered may not eventually return with the opening of some economic activity.
"All those who want to come, our government is fully committed to bring them back. We will greet them with open arms and take them home, there are no ifs and buts in that," the Jharkhand Chief Minister said.
Soren said the challenge for the state government was to transport such a large number of people in a short span of time while taking all precautions.
"We are able to allow only one train at one station and people have to go from there to other areas by buses. We have designated stations where trains are coming. We already have the database of where people have to go and are designating train stations accordingly," he said.
Jharkhand is also feeling the pinch as it is mostly dependent on the Centre for resources and economic help, and there is no financial assistance after it got about Rs 250 crore from the initial package announced by Finance Minister Niramla Sitharaman, Soren said.
He asserted that the Centre has delayed a second financial package to states by a bit too long which has already defeated its purpose and to drive home his point he used the analogy -- "Baraat jaane ke baad khichchdi pakane se kya fayda. (what is the point of a feast when the wedding is over)".
On the railways charging 15 percent from states for ferrying migrant labourers, Soren said,"who will make them understand that they are bringing people from abroad in flights and inside the country charging for ferrying labourers who do not even have money for food."
Soren said his government was committed to help the poor migrant laborers irrespective of whether the Centre helps or not and had already transferred money in the accounts of migrant labourers registered on its 'Sahayta App' which cost the state nearly Rs 20 crore.
"I had requested Railway Minister Piyush Goyal that the Railways earns maximum revenue from Jharkhand so at least it can be given some relief. But no help has been forthcoming," he said.
Asserting that he was not afraid of the influx and cases of coronavirus going up because of that, Soren said even if 1,000 or 2,000 people are COVID-19 positive, it will make the way forward clearer and the state will take care of it.
Listing his demands from the Centre, Soren said Jharkhand should get a complete waiver in train transportation cost, the role of the PSUs be fixed in accommodating the migrant labourers that are coming in and medical infrastructure for screening and quarantining of those coming in be boosted.
"We have asked for the Cobas-6800 machine, which can conduct about 1,000 coronavirus tests in one day, so that more and more people can be tested," he said.
Soren said in order to boost the rural economy, he has launched three schemes to generate 25 crore man-days for MGNREGA to enable the workers earn wages as well as bring in a long-term plan to provide steady income to the poor households.
MGNREGA was a rural lifeline and yet Jharkhand and underdeveloped states have wages fixed even below the standard wage rate i.e Rs 194/195 , not even Rs 200, so people have migrated in large numbers to other states because they know they would get Rs 300-400 upwards per day for work, he said.