India lockdown, Migrant Workers: Amit Shah's remarks came amid criticism of the Modi government over the handling of the migrant workers as thousands walked for hundreds of kms and took unsafe modes of transport to reach their native places.
Lockdown India Update: Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the Centre was pained by the suffering of migrant workers due to the Coronavirus-induced lockdown and tried its best to ensure that they do not face problems while returning to their home states.
Shah’s remarks came amid criticism of the Modi government over the handling of the migrant workers as thousands walked for hundreds of kms and took unsafe modes of transport to reach their native places.
Explaining why the government didn’t allow migrants to return in the first phase of the lockdown, Shah said that arrangements to send migrants back home were not made earlier because the government wanted to protect them from infection and use the time to build health infrastructure in their states.
“We are sensitive to the migrant workers. In the first month of the lockdown, our main concern was that even if the migrant workers face some difficulty, they should be protected from Covid 19, that these people leave gradually. And when they do, all facilities in their home state are in place, the hospitals are in good shape, the quarantine facilities and doctors are ready. So we started their movement from May 1,” Shah said in an interview to Aaj Tak.
He said that the government ensured that migrants were provided food and shelter throughout April, adding that “we sent Rs 11,000 crore to collectors to set up camps”.
“From April 20, states had started running buses to ferry migrant workers. This way, 41 lakh migrant workers reached their destination before May 10. These are people who have gone on government expenses,” he said.
One crore people have returned home so far, the Home minister added.
Shah said the maximum number of migrants had reached Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “Both states had ensured food, shelter and quarantine,” he said.
Shah also sought to dispel rumours that migrant workers paid for their tickets.
“I want to make it clear that either states have paid for the tickets or reimbursed after migrants reached their destination. Of this, 85% has been paid by the Centre through Railways,” he said.
He said despite several efforts being made by the Centre and states, people who lost patience left on their own. He said that the government through regular video conferences with local administrations organised a system that buses be run on the highways and these people be taken to railway stations for shelter. Trains were then run from such stations. He, however, admitted that there was some chaos in the whole process.
“There was some chaos in the whole process. I agree. I feel their pain. It would have been nice if they hadn’t left,” Shah said.
On Shramik Special trains being diverted and reaching their destinations late, the Home Minister said that on routes which normally saw 13 trains running, 70 trains were run. This, he said, created massive congestion.
“That is why trains took time to reach. But all the people were provided food,” he said.
Shah also took the opportunity to slam the Mamata Banerjee government. He said while states had supported the Centre’s efforts, it was West Bengal that was reluctant to receive Shramik Special trains.