Listing out the efforts undertaken to solve the issues faced by the migrant workers due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown, the Centre has filed a recent status report in the Supreme Court.
According to a report by the Indian Express, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla stated in an affidavit dated April 12, that a total of 37,978 relief camps had been established for migrant labourers by the states, Union territories and NGOs and nearly 14.3 lakh people had been housed in them. Apart from this, 26,225 food camps had been prepared, providing food to nearly 1.34 crore people, and around 16.5 lakh workers had been given shelter and food by their respective employers, the government said.
To ensure further security to the migrant workers and other poor sections, their employers (be it in the industry or shops, and/or other commercial establishments) have been directed under the Disaster Management Act 2005 to pay wages to their workers at their workplaces when it is due without any reduction for the period of closure during the lockdown.
Landlords Shall Not Force To Pay Rent
The District authorities are to ensure that the migrant workers and other poor people who are residing in rented accommodation shall not be forced to pay rent by landlords. According to the affidavit, any landlord who does not follow this direction shall be liable for action under the Disaster Management Act.
Special Arrangements For HIV Patients
The report also added that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has been directed to ensure sufficient availability of necessary medicines in all pharmacies. The government has made special arrangements to provide drugs to HIV patients. The affidavit contains a guidance note regarding the distribution of these drugs has been sent to all states.
Instructions To Farmers
According to the government apart from steps to warrant the availability of food grains, harvesting has been allowed to continue uninterrupted in light of this The Indian Council for Agriculture has issued an advisory to farmers for the harvesting of rabi crop and sowing of the summer crop. Further, the Department of Chemicals and Fertilizers has been tasked with ensuring the sufficient supply of fertilisers for the Kharif season.
Railways Serve 10 Lakh Meals
The Centre further stated that the Indian Railways had ensured uninterrupted supply of necessary commodities through 24×7 freight services. In the period between March 24 to April 9, 6.11 lakh wagons have been moved to keep the supply chain running. 10.1 lakh free meals were also served by the Railways till April 9.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation too did their part, flew an aerial distance of 1,66,076 km till April 12 and operated 180 flights, which transported 258 tonnes of medical cargo.
Marooned by the sudden nationwide lockdown implemented to slow the transmission of COVID-19, the migrant workers lost their sources of income overnight and were left to fend for themselves without food or shelter. Due to the lack of all public transport, they couldn't go home either. At a time when social distancing was a mandate, hordes of migrants and daily wagers started a long walk to their home states.
Reportedly, the Union Home Ministry had earlier asked the States to "immediately set up relief camps" along the highways and conduct regular medical checks while observing proper social distancing norms.
The Ministry had also issued an order authorising the States to use State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) to provide "for temporary accommodation, food, clothing, medical care, etc." to homeless people, including the stranded migrant labourers.
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