About 10 lakh migrants expected to return to their hometowns in Bihar amid a nationwide lockdown over coronavirus will be quarantined for 21 days, instead of 14, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Friday at a video meeting with his cabinet ministers as he reviewed the preparations for their return. At the meeting, which lasted for about six hours, the Chief Minister also said that these migrants will be offered skill-training at the quarantine centres.
"We must brace ourselves for the situation that may arise out of a large influx that is expected in the wake of the centre's revised guidelines with regard to the lockdown. We must ensure that the quarantine centres have excellent food, shelter, sanitation and medical facilities. The isolation centres must be in place at block and panchayat levels. If needed, we shall set up more centres as the number of people returning could be huge," the Bihar Chief Minister said at the meeting attended by his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar and Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey.
Earlier this week, the Union home ministry gave a clearance for the movement of stranded labourers, students and tourists amid repeated requests from the states. Nitish Kumar, who had been firmly against bringing back people from other states to Bihar, suggested at a video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday that he was not opposed to the travel of migrants but in need of the centre's help in coordinating their journey home with precaution. Later, the state urged centre to arrange special trains.
"There must be adequate number of vehicles in place for ferrying people from railway stations to quarantine facilities close to their homes. There should be awareness drives in villages, with messages blared on loudspeakers about precautions needed in the current situation," the 69-year-old JDU chief said at the meeting on Friday, news agency PTI reported.
Nitish Kumar also spoke about skill-training at the centres. "Many projects underway in Bihar happen to be labour-intensive. Once the dust settles down, a survey should be conducted to assess the skills these migrant labourers might have and they should be absorbed in the workforce accordingly," he said.
A countrywide lockdown was announced by PM Modi on March 25, leaving lakhs of migrant labourers across the country without an income and any means of going back home. Many tried to make their way home on foot. Some did not make it, collapsing hours away from home after the hard trek, often without enough food or water.
On Friday, the centre said it will run special trains to take migrant labourers, students, pilgrims or tourists back home amid the COVID-19 crisis. The development came hours after the first "special train" to transport migrants left Telangana for Jharkhand at around 4.30 am, carrying 1,200 people from Lingampally in the southern state to Jharkhand's Hatia district.
(With inputs from PTI)