Centre blames fake news for exodus of migrant workers during the lockdownPage Visited: 15
The home ministry on September 15 said panic created due to fake news triggered the mass exodus of migrant workers amid the coronavirus pandemic-led lockdown starting March 25.
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, the government said, “The migration of large number of migrant workers was triggered by the panic created by fake news regarding the duration of the lockdown, and people, especially migrant labourers, were worried about adequate supply of basic necessities like food, drinking water, health services and shelter.”
It added that it was fully conscious of this, and accordingly took necessary measures to ensure that no citizen should be deprived of basic amenities like food, drinking water, medical facilities, during the period of the “inevitable lockdown”.
This was in response to a query by the Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy, who sought to know as to why thousands of migrant workers and labourers ended up walking home following the lockdown announcement in March earlier this year.
Along with this, Roy also asked about the steps that the government took before the lockdown was announced, in order to protect migrant workers, and the number of those who had lost their lives on their journeys back home.
To this, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai replied, “With a view to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the central government took various measures, considered essential for the safety of people including migrant workers. From March 21, 2020, onwards, control room operations in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were expanded by making their functioning 24*7 under the supervision of senior officers of the level of joint secretaries along with the representatives of key central ministries.”
“These control rooms, inter alia, attended to the grievances of stranded persons including migrant workers and promptly resolved these grievances relating to food, transport, shelter, etc. States and Union territories were also advised to set up control rooms with help lines and to appoint nodal officers,” Rai added.
On September 14, the Union labour ministry informed Parliament that no data is available on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the nationwide lockdown. This was reiterated by the MHA in its response in Parliament today, wherein it said “the details regarding number of migrant workers who died while returning to their home states is not centrally maintained”.
The government did, however, say over 1.04 crore migrants had returned to their home states amid the ongoing pandemic.
Earlier in March this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the call for a nationwide lockdown in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Subsequently, domestic and international travel operations were shut down amid several other stringent restrictions that had been imposed. As factories, industries and all other workplaces remained shuttered, migrant workers across the country found themselves stranded without any source of income.
Millions of migrant workers were thus forced to head towards their home states on foot, their plight finally visible to the entire country and even across the world.