New Delhi, Mar 27 (PTI) The Centre has asked state governments to take steps to prevent a mass exodus of migrant workers in the wake of the national lockdown even as they gathered in thousands in Ghazipur on the Delhi border on Friday desperate to reach their hometowns in adjoining Uttar Pradesh.
The 21-day lockdown imposed from Tuesday midnight in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus has triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities in several states to their villages raising concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak could turn into a humanitarian crisis.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to some of the chief ministers and asked them to look into the issue of the mass exodus.
As central and state authorities worked on ways to ease the hardships faced by migrant workers, who stare at loss of livelihood, trudging long distances, steps were also being taken to fix the bottlenecks in the movement of essential supplies.
The migrant workers who were gathered at Ghazipur were sent to the UP side of the border by police in batches and they appeared prepared to walk long distances in case no help was forthcoming to ferry them in public transport.
Around 40 migrant labourers working in Mumbai were also caught in adjoining Thane for allegedly trying to escape in a truck to Uttar Pradesh.
In an advisory, the Union Home Ministry asked the state governments to prevent a mass exodus of migrant agriculture labourers, industrial workers and unorganised sector employees from their workplaces to hometowns .
The advisory to all the states and Union territories said they should also make arrangements for uninterrupted supply of essential commodities to hotels, working women hostels so that they continue to live in existing facilities.
'The home ministry has issued an advisory to States/UTs to prevent mass exodus of migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and unorganised sector workers, so as to prevent the spread of COVID19,' an official spokesperson said.
The states and union territories have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of measures taken by the government, including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the procedures.
'This would help prevent the exodus of such people,' the spokesperson said.
SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh said the airline is ready to operate some flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna to alleviate the suffering of migrant workers, especially those from Bihar.
BJP president JP Nadda also asked his party workers to help out the migrants.
Amid reports of violation of prohibitory orders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to K Palaniswami and B S Yeddiruappa, chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively, urging them to enforce strictly the national lockdown and ensure availability of essential commodities for the people.
'Morning at 9:30 Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to me and said despite lockdown in Karnataka aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, people are still coming out and commuting and instructed that proper bandobast has to be made. We have discussed regarding this,' Yeddiruappa told reporters in Bengaluru.
Amid concerns over availability of essential supplies, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) said it is regularly engaging with retailers and e-commerce companies to ensure that the supply chain of essential goods is not disrupted and various facilities continue to function smoothly.
Delhi Police issued an order giving clearance for smooth delivery of essential goods, including food, groceries and medicines, in the national capital during the lockdown period.
Several e-commerce firms and food delivering companies have been complaining that police was not allowing them to ply on the roads during the lockdown.
Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India(COAI) also alleged that telecom operators are facing issues in maintaining networks as their employees on duty are being harassed and even beaten by police in some states.
The government has kept telecom services in the list of essential services in order to support work from home during the lockdown period.
Amid reports of movement of food delivery vehicles encountering problems from the police, a truck driver in Patna was shot at by police for allegedly refusing to pay bribe for his potato-laden truck to pass.
A senior police officer said three police constables were arrested and sent to jail.
People in several places threw the concept of social distancing to the wind by crowding at kirana stores and local markets.
Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government will close down markets in Guwahati to avoid overcrowding after people jostled to get essential items despite the advice of social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
Fancy Bazar, the main commercial hub of the Northeast, was chock-a-block with people knocking each other to buy food items, vegetables, meat and fish.
Tempos, trucks, private vehicles, rickshaws and hand-carts blocked the roads near the market, seeming to be just any other usual working day.
There were similar scenes in other markets in the city and other districts in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh, a muslim cleric and 27 others were booked for defying lockdown restrictions and offering prayers at a mosque in Bhopal city. Police said the Imam of Zainab Masjid in Islampura and others organised a prayer at 8 pm on Thursday, violating orohibitory orders.
Earlier in Kerala, two Catholic priests were booked for breaching the restrictions by conducting mass in a Church.
And in an incident apparently linked to the lockdown, police said a 38-year-old daily wage labourer In Thrissur in Kerala committed 'suicide' allegedly frustrated over not getting liquor and after struggling with withdrawal symptoms.
Sanoj, a painting worker, was found hanging from a tree next to his house, a police officer said.
'In our preliminary investigation, his family told us that he was frustrated over the closing of liquor shops. He was showing withdrawal symptoms as he was not getting alcohol for last two days,' the officer said.
In Uttarakhand, raids were conducted at sabzi mandis and provision shops by the food and supplies department to check illegal profiteering following complaints that traders were overpricing essential items at some places taking advantage of people's compulsions, state officials said in Dehradun.PTI TEAM GSN GSN GSN