The central government yesterday asked all states to strictly follow the nationwide lockdown and stop the movement of people across cities, advising them to arrange shelter, food and other facilities for migrant labourers at their workplace.
The order came amid mass exodus of migrant labourers from cities to their villages in different states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced the 21-day lockdown in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba said yesterday the authorities have decided to “seal” district and state borders.
“Directions were issued that district and state borders should be effectively sealed and states were directed to ensure there is no movement of people across cities or on highways,” said a government statement.
“Only movement of goods should be allowed. District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police should be made personally responsible for implementation of these directions which have been issued under the Disaster Management Act,” the statement said.
The states have been advised to make adequate arrangements for food and shelter for the poor and needy, including migrant labourers at the place of their work.
Meanwhile, opposition leaders, analysts and some citizens are increasingly criticising the implementation of the lockdown
In particular, they say the government appears to have been caught off guard by the mass movement of migrants, which threatens to spread the disease into the hinterlands.
“The Gov’t had no contingency plans in place for this exodus,” tweeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as images of migrant labourers walking long distances to return home dominated media.
#ModiMadeDisaster was a top trending topic yesterday on Twitter.
Police said four migrants were killed on Saturday when a truck ran into them in Maharashtra.
Also on Saturday, a migrant collapsed and died in Uttar Pradesh, according to a police official.
“We will die of walking and starving before getting killed by corona,” said migrant worker Madhav Raj, 28, as he walked by the road in Uttar Pradesh.
At a border checkpost between Haryana and Delhi, a policewoman could be seen trying to persuade a family of migrant workers, including three small children, to return home.
“We waited for three days, now we have no money, no food. No one came to help us. It is better to die at home than die here of hunger,” Savita Devi, 45, said.
Home for her family of construction workers is in the outskirts of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, about 230km away.
Hundreds were arriving at a bus station on the outskirts of the national capital where authorities were arranging transportation to take them home.
In addition to construction, many work in factories or are street vendors.
Yesterday, several hundred migrants in the town of Paippad in Kerala gathered in a square demanding transport back to their hometowns.
Modi’s supporters slammed the state governments on Twitter for failing to properly implement the lockdown.
In cities, too, anger was rising.
“We have no food or drink. I sat down thinking how to feed my family,” said homemaker Amirbee Shaikh Yusuf, 50, in Mumbai’s sprawling Dharavi slum.
“There is nothing good about this lockdown. People are angry, no one is caring for us.”
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