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'Provide Shelter and Food, Contain Them': Centre to States and UTs Amid Mass Exodus of Migrant Workers

File photo of migrant workers walking along a road to return to their villages. (Reuters)

File photo of migrant workers walking along a road to return to their villages. (Reuters)

The advisory was issued after reports of workers choosing to travel hundreds of kilometres on foot to their villages emerged from many parts of the country.

New Delhi: Facing criticism that its 21-day nationwide lockdown lacked planning and has triggered a major crisis for migrant workers and people who live on daily incomes, the Centre on Saturday issued another advisory urging all states and Union Territories (UTs) to take immediate relief measures to provide temporary accommodation, food, clothing, medical care etc, to homeless people, including stranded migrant workers.

On Friday, the Centre had issued an advisory directing all states and UTs to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter to them. This advisory was modified to include clothing and medical care, which culminates into temporary rehabilitation until the public health crisis settles.

Joint Secretary Sanjeev Kumar Jindal in a letter, to states and UTs, said the relief measures should be applicable to homeless people, including migrant labourers, stranded due to lockdown measures and shelter in relief camps and other places providing them food, "for the containment of the spread of COVID-19 virus in the country."

The three-week nationwide lockdown, which entered its fourth day on Saturday, has left several thousand daily wagers without jobs and reduced their means of sustenance. Reports of workers choosing to travel hundreds of kilometres on foot to their villages have emerged from many parts of the country, as public transport has also been shut down for the period of the nationwide lockdown.

The earlier advisory issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla urged to take steps to help migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the 21-day nationwide COVID-19 lockdown to stop their migration.

According to the home ministry officials, authorities concerned have been asked to maintain the uninterrupted supply of essential commodities. And, all precautions and social distancing measures should be duly adopted while involved in such measures, said an official.

Similarly, states and UTs have been advised to take steps to ensure that students, working women from other states are also allowed to continue in their existing accommodation.

Bhalla, through the advisory, also advised the states and UTs to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the government including provision of free food grains and other essential items through Public Distribution System (PDS), and streamline the distribution system. This would help prevent avoidable movement of such people, the advisory suggests.

The Home Ministry had also advised that states and UTs need to ensure that hotels, rented accommodations and hostels continue to remain functional and delivery of essential items is streamlined so that students, working women, hostel inmates are allowed to continue in existing facilities while observing precautions.

"While ensuring supply of essential goods and services, states and UTs 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 ministry said.