Leader of the Opposition in Assam, Debabrata Saikia, has suggested to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call in the army to transport migrant workers, stranded because of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to control the spread of novel coronavirus, home after proper medical check-up.
He has also shot off urgent letters to state governments, including Dispur, to take necessary and immediate steps for these labourers.
“Hundreds of labourers from Assam are currently stranded in a pitiable condition in various states. I would, therefore, like to request you kindly to mobilize the army vehicles to transport these stranded and cash-strapped people to their respective homes. In case healthcare imperatives pertaining to the lockdown precludes their transportation at this stage, then I request you kindly to issue instructions to ensure that all the stranded people are housed in vacant schools and colleges, till the lockdown ends with adequate provision of food, water, medicines, sanitisers in the meantime. The army may use the trains also under the supervision and arrange quarantine facilities before letting these people go and join their relatives in villages,” Saikia said in his letter to Modi.
Saikia’s move came hours after the Union home ministry on Friday asked state governments to prevent mass exodus of migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and unorganised sector employees to their hometowns.
Millions of migrant labourers live and eat where they work in big cities and the sudden shutdown of businesses has upended their lives. Throwing all warnings to the wind, a sea of migrant workers descended on bus stations in Delhi on Saturday for buses to take them home in Uttar Pradesh.
“Over 1,000 workers from Assam’s various districts are currently stranded in multiple cities of several states. Since the Centre has asked the state governments to provide temporary accommodation, food, clothing, medical care to homeless people, including migrant labourers, stranded due to lockdown measures, I am writing letters to the chief secretaries of the states and also to the deputy commissioners of the local districts there to ensure proper arrangements for those from Assam,” Saikia said.
He said in Gurgaon alone, some 600 people from Assam are stranded. “According to information, most of the migrant labourers from Assam are working as daily wagers in various factories, packaging units, stone quarries and so on. There are skilled labourers like masons and carpenters too,” he added.
Saikia has already written letters to Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Haryana, Delhi, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam and will write to more states.
Most of the migrant labourers from Assam are from Goalpara, Dhubri, Barpeta, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Cachar districts.
Youth Congress workers have also been activated by Saikia to follow up with the local administration and to make arrangements for migrant labourers from Assam.
In the city too, many migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and Bihar are stranded, most of whom work in the construction sector.
Migrant workers travelling during the lockdown period will be kept on 14-day quarantine in government facilities. State governments have been also asked to ensure wages are paid in time and in full to stop labourers from returning home.
Already over 700 migrant workers of Assam, who reached the interstate borders with Bengal in Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts, have been sent to quarantine.
Saikia on Sunday wrote to Tinsukia deputy commissioner Bhaskar Pegu to provide relief materials and assistance to around 30 people from lower Assam’s Goalpara, who are stranded at Ledo under Margherita subdivision, owing to the lockdown.
Pegu assured to direct the Margherita subdivisional officer to take necessary action.
Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar Ojha in Doomdooma