Operate more special trains to transport migrant workers: MHA directs states, issues revised SOP

The Ministry of Home Ministry on Tuesday issued a revised Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) on the movement of stranded workers by trains and buses from one state to other during coronavirus lockdown.

The Home Ministry directed states to allow plying of more trains to ferry migrant workers while stressing that more clarity is needed about the departure of trains or buses. 

“Lack of clarity about the running of trains, buses coupled with rumours is causing unrest amongst migrant workers,” the MHA said in its letter to the states.

In its letter, the MHA asked the states and the union territories to operate more special trains in close coordination with the railways for transportation of migrant workers and said special attention should be given to women, children and elderly.

In a communication to all state governments and UT administrations, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said fear of COVID-19 infection and apprehension of loss of livelihood are the main driving factors for the movement of stranded workers towards their homes.

“In order to mitigate the distress of migrant workers, I would be grateful if the following measures could be implemented,” he said in the letter.

The Home Secretary suggested that more special trains should be arranged by pro-active coordination between the states and the Ministry of Railways.

He also said arrangement for resting places, taking into account requirement of sanitation, food and health, should be made.

There should be more clarity about the departure of trains and buses, as lack of clarity coupled with rumours caused unrest amongst the workers. Special attention may be given to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers, Bhalla said.

District authorities may guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation, enlisting the migrants with their addresses and contact numbers, which may be helpful in contact tracing in due course and involvement of NGO representatives at rest places etc, he said.

Bhalla said steps should be taken for the alleviation of the notion of long quarantine at rest places by district authorities or NGO workers.

Increase in number of buses for transporting migrants are some other measures suggested, he said.

Besides, entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-state border should be allowed, adequate arrangement of food, health care and counselling to encourage the workers to remain at places where they are should also be made, he added. 

In a communication to the states on May 18, the Home Ministry said no state or Union Territory will dilute the guidelines issued for the nationwide lockdown that will continue till May 31.

In a communication to the chief secretaries of the states and Union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown were issued after taking the views of the states, following a video-conference held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with chief ministers on May 11.

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