The home ministry's order to send migrant labourers home by bus is not feasible, several states, especially those from the south, have said. Source said the states have asked the ministry to allow the use of trains, contending that the number of people, distance and logistics of travel rules out buses. The Centre has said it would look into the matter, which came up today at a virtual meeting between the Union Cabinet Secretary and the state representatives.
The guidelines issued by the home ministry yesterday said the people can only be transferred by road on buses. The states, it said, should make arrangements for the transportation.
But the states pointed out that thousands of people from northern states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and the eastern part of the country like Bengal and Assam, work in many southern states. Ferrying them back would involve travel across several states.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying transferring thousands of people over such long distances in buses is impractical.
Bihar was among the first to raise objections. Sushil Kumar Modi, the deputy chief minister of Bihar, tweeted today that the Centre must operate special trains to transport "migrants from distant places".
Maharashtra, which has been worst-hit by coronavirus, has made similar demands. Mumbai employs more migrant workers than any other city in the country.
Tamil Nadu today informed the Centre that they have around 4 lakh migrant workers and most of them are from Bihar and West Bengal. Under the circumstances, moving them back to their states by road will not be feasible, officials said.
The states are also weighing their options regarding the Centre's other requirement – screening people for coronavirus before anyone is allowed to go.
Officials said testing of such large groups is impossible. Screening for symptoms is the only option available. In this case too, states have been given the option of framing the modalities.
Most states don't want all their migrant workers to move out as they look for resumption of factories and industries.