Medical official uses thermal screening device on a passenger on Wednesday. (Express photo: Prashant Nadkar)
As the nationwide lockdown came into effect on Wednesday, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the supply of essential commodities was disrupted due to confusion among officers along inter-state borders. He said all migrant workers who have returned to their villages amid the pandemic will be screened. The state has reported one death due to the coronavirus infection.
The Deputy CM said the government has decided that Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) at Patna will now attend only suspected and positive cases of COVID-19. He said screening out migrant workers was a tough challenge and converting schools and panchayat bhawans into observation centres for migrants will prove helpful.
"We have heard about disruptions in supply chain of essential items. We immediately exempted food production and processing and packaging industries from the lockdown. As we get rice from West Bengal, pulses from Katni and Satna in Madhya Pradesh, and mustard oil from Rajasthan, trucks were being stopped at inter-state borders. As we identify problems, we broadened the ambit of exemption. We are also conducting raids against hoarding and over-pricing," he said.
Asked how the state government was dealing with migrants returning to Bihar and some people walking down to their homes in absence of public transport, he said that a train from Kerala came unscheduled on Tuesday, bringing about 3,000 migrants. "We have made arrangements to take them to their villages. A day ago, another train had come unscheduled. Despite lockdown, we tried to provide buses for them." Some passengers, whose villages were 10-15 km from Mithapur bus stand at Patna, had walked to their homes.
Migrant labroures leave Delhi.
"We have purchased 15,000 thermal screening kits. All migrants who have returned to their villages would be screened and it was advisable for them to stay at village schools or panchayat bhawans working as self-quarantine centres," he said. Asked how the state government will identify the migrants, he said villagers should "insist on them staying at observation centres."
He said the Bihar government had decided to pay one month additional salary to doctors and other health employees. Asked about daily wagers who lost their jobs, he said, "We are giving free one month ration to 1.68 crore ration card holders besides paying Rs 1,000 to each of them. As villages are not part of lockdown, Rs 1,000 would not be paid to ration card holders in villages. About 13 lakh registered construction workers will also get Rs 1,000. Besides, 87 lakh pensioners will also get three months pension in advance."