Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to continue with the restrictions on train and air travel to Odisha at least till the end of June to contain the spread of COVID-19.
He made this request during the second phase of the prime minister's video-conference with chief ministers.
"June is the toughest month for Odisha because a large number of migrants have returned and the monsoon has also started. Hence, Government of India should continue with the restrictions on train and air travel to Odisha," Patnaik said.
He also drew the prime minister's attention to the fact that some people from Odisha were still stranded in the Gulf countries. "The Government of India should take steps to bring them back as most of them are engaged in low-paying jobs," Patnaik said.
He underlined the difficulties of the students set to appear in all-India examinations like the NEET, JEE-Main, CLAT etc. "The national-level entrance examinations should be conducted only after the state level Plus-II examinations are completed," the chief minister said.
The state government, which has adopted different strategies to contain the spread of COVID-19, anticipates that regular train and flight services will add to the number of people who have returned to the state during the pandemic. So far, as many as 5,56,443 Odias have returned to the state, including 2,498 on Wednesday.
People are returning by trains, buses, other vehicles and also by special planes. More than 2.5 lakh people have already returned to the state by 239 Shramik Special trains, an official said.
Odisha's COVID-19 tally increased after the arrival of migrant workers from states with a large number of coronavirus cases such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Kerala, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc.
Similarly, more than 2,000 people have returned to Odisha by planes from the UAE, the US, Kuwait, Oman, Nepal and other countries.
Incidentally, Odisha's first positive coronavirus case was an Italy returnee, an official said, adding that therefore, the BJD government wants to restrict train and air travel to the state in June as with the onset of monsoon, the flu-like disease is likely to get aggravated.