"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
Amid the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre on Thursday, March 26, directed all states to ensure that the thousands of migrant workers stranded without jobs get food and shelter.
The Centre came to the rescue after the chief ministers of Odisha and West Bengal appealed to the country to help workers from the two states. While Jharkhand set up a team of IAS officers to coordinate, Bihar announced relief measures.
"We have asked state governments to arrange food and shelter for migrant workers. We are sensitising everyone that wherever they are, they should remain there," The Indian Express quoted Punya Salila Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, as saying.
Among measures taken by Kerala are community kitchens set up by local bodies and hostel buildings hired by the government. Unofficial estimates say that Kerala provides work to over 25 lakh migrant workers, mostly from the East.
The labour department in Maharashtra has recommended that money be transferred to the bank accounts of 12 lakh registered labourers in the construction sector - mostly migrant workers.
"Desperate times need extreme measures," Maharashtra Labour Minister Dilip Walse Patil, adding that the proposal is under discussion.
Relief camps will be set up by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's government for returning workers. At these camps, social distancing will be maintained. The camps will have teams of doctors. Rs 100 crore has been allocated from the CM's relief fund.
Bihar's Resident Commissioner has been deputed in Delhi to coordinate relief efforts for workers employed in other states.
About 5,000 migrant workers are stuck in various Bihar towns amid the lockdown.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought help from 18 chief ministers, writing to them to assist the workers from the state.
"We are getting SOS calls from them. They are generally in groups of 50-100 and can be easily identified by the local administration…kindly ask your administration to provide them with basic shelter, food and medical support during the period of crisis. We, in Bengal, are taking care of such people in our state," she wrote.
In his appeal, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote: "… any person or group of persons stranded in any part of your state may please be assisted with food, accommodation, security." He assured that "Odisha will bear whatever cost is needed".
A team of 15 IAS officers has been formed by Jharkhand - each of them has been assigned a different state to resolve the issues of the workers stranded there. These officers have to report back to Principal Secretary (Labour) Rajeev Arun Ekka, the state's nodal officer.
Responding to appeals on social media, Chief Minister Hemant Soren has contacted the chief ministers of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Odisha to resolve the issues that have been raised.
Traders and businesses employing migrant workers have been directed by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to arrange for food and shelter with help from the state government and NGOs.
A committee has been set up under the Chief Secretary by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to contact workers from the state employed outside. He has directed District Magistrates to provide relief at the state's borders for workers who are walking back from neighbouring states.
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