‘Not enough buses!’ Why Bihar won’t bring back its stranded migrants despite Centre easing travel restrictions

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Updated: Apr 30, 2020 4:03 PM

While students from Kota will be brought back in buses, the state government says it does not have enough resources to facilitate the return of lakhs of workers and students from across the country

The Bihar government has expressed its inability to bring back students and workers stranded across the country because it doesn’t have enough buses to ferry them. Representational pic. PTI

Wednesday brought a huge sigh of relief for migrants stranded in different parts of the country as the Centre decided to ease the lockdown restrictions, facilitating interstate movement to allow stranded migrant labourers, tourists and students to return to their homes. Sadly, that reprieve is unlikely to be passed on to many migrants from Bihar stuck in different parts of the country.

The state government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has expressed its inability to bring back students and workers stranded across the country — because it doesn’t have enough buses to ferry them! So, the Bihar government now wants the Centre to run special trains so that people from Bihar can return home.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Deputy CM Sushil Modi categorically stated that the Bihar government does not have enough buses to bring back migrant labourers and students from various parts of the country. However, students stuck in Kota will be brought back through buses. The state government said that the Chief Secretary is working out a plan to facilitate the return of students and migrants from across the country. However, since it does not have buses to bring back all of them, other state governments are being contacted in this regard.

“Union Home Ministry has not permitted starting of trains and it is obvious that everyone has to be brought back to the state in buses but we do not have enough buses to bring back so many people from across the country,” Sushil Modi said.

Ironically, it was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ease the restrictions to facilitate the return of migrants as doing so in the prevailing scenario would amount to violating the principles of the lockdown and the provisions of the Disaster Management Act. On Wednesday, Nitish also expressed gratitude to the central government for amending the guidelines to facilitate the return of lakhs of migrant workers.

The Nitish Kumar-led NDA has come in for stinging criticism over its handling of the migrant crisis and its reluctance to bring back students from the state who have been stuck in Rajasthan’s Kota due to the lockdown. Many of these students took to the streets demanding that the government facilitate their return home.

Nitish also took exception to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to send hundreds of buses to bring back the stranded students, saying it goes against the “principles of lockdown”. The government was left red-faced after it emerged that the state authorities issued a special travel pass to a local BJP MLA to bring back his daughter from the Rajasthan town during the lockdown.

With studying and working outside the state a widespread practice that has been normalised over several decades now, government insiders feel that Nitish’s adamant stand with regard to helping migrants find their way back home could prove costly in an election year. “It’s CM’s duty to bring back our children. It’s also causing us political loss. He should bring all children before 3rd May. Elections are going to be held this year. Almost all middle-class families have at least one child studying in Kota,” Sanjay Paswan, BJP MLC and former Union Minister said.

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