New Delhi: In a clear indication at extending the nationwide lockdown beyond May 3, the Centre on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines, allowing lakhs of migrant workers and students stranded at various places of the country to go home by crossing state borders. Also Read - ‘Contacting Other States on MHA Order, Will Let You Know Soon, Till Then Stay Home,’ Kejriwal Tells Migrants
Soon after issuing the guidelines, the Home Ministry stated that many districts will get considerable relaxations from May 4 and asserted that the ongoing nationwide lockdown has resulted in tremendous gains in the fight against COVID-19. Also Read - Amid Lockdown, Centre Allows Interstate Movement of Migrants, Tourists, Students Stranded at Various Places
“New guidelines to fight COVID-19 will come into effect from May 4, which shall give considerable relaxation to many districts. Details regarding this shall be communicated in the days to come,” Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson said in a tweet. Also Read - Demanding Payment, Restless Migrant Workers Stage Protest at IIT Hyderabad, Injure Policemen
Without giving much details about the possible relaxations, the Home Ministry said these new guidelines will be announced in the days to come.
The development comes at a time when several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Punjab, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, have brought back thousands of their students and tourists stuck in different parts of the country by bus. However, most of the migrant workers, tourists and other people continue to stuck in their places of work or shelter homes.
While Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Assam, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh brought back their stranded students from Kota in Rajasthan, Punjab has brought back stranded pilgrims from Maharashtra, besides students from Kota.
It was expected that the private vehicles will be allowed, and more categories of shops will be opened. However, public transport, academic institutions and public gatherings may remain shut, going by what the Home Ministry has been saying in the past few days.
After the Home Ministry’s new order, fresh indications have emerged that the nationwide lockdown may continue in some form at least and in some parts of the country beyond May 3, when the second phase of the lockdown is scheduled to end.
The new order from the Home Ministry has come as a big blessing for the people, who have been stuck in various cities of the country for over a month with many of them being left jobless and homeless due to the lockdown. No doubt, the new order will also apply to pilgrims, tourists, students and other people stranded at different places.
Issuing the order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said buses shall be used for transport of such groups of stranded people and these vehicles will be sanitised and will have to follow safe social distancing norms in seating.
Listing the conditions, the ministry said all states and union territories should designate nodal authorities and develop standard protocols for receiving and sending such stranded persons.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday extended curfew restrictions for two more weeks in the state. However, he said that there will be four-hour relaxation in the curfew from 7 AM daily.
“The lockdown will be lifted from 7 AM to 11 AM every day; during this time people can come out of their houses and shops will be opening. Also, we have decided to extend the curfew in the state by two more weeks,” Amarinder Singh said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday hinted that the ongoing lockdown would continue in the state, saying experts and doctors are of the opinion that the restrictions imposed to check the spread of COVID-19 should remain in force till the end of May.
The chief minister, however, announced a few relaxations, in accordance with the orders of the central government, such as opening stand-alone shops dealing in non-essential items and resuming bus and taxi services in green zones, following all precautionary and social distancing measures.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the Maharashtra government is in talks with chief ministers of other states over facilitating return of migrant workers to their native places in a planned manner. He said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will announce a decision on sending back migrant workers after the discussion with his counterparts from other states.
“Migrant workers are living in Maharashtra in big numbers, particularly in Mumbai. Discussions are on with the chief ministers of other states on how the migrant workers can be sent back to their respective native states by buses or trains in a planned manner,” he said.
On the other hand, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he is in touch with other state governments on the Home Ministry order and urged the migrant workers to stay put in the national capital till he informs them about the final decision in one or two days.
Taking to Twitter, Kejriwal asked migrant workers to stay home and follow lockdown till the time the plan is executed.
“The Union Home Ministry has issued an order concerning migrant workers today. We are in talks with other state governments on this issue. We will inform you (migrant workers) in next one or two days once planning is executed and till then, stay home and follow the lockdown,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday thanked the centre for revising its guidelines whereby movement of people away from their homes during the ongoing lockdown has been allowed with certain conditions.
However, Kumar said revised guidelines will provide relief to students, tourists, pilgrims and migrant workers hailing from Bihar, who are stuck in far-off places across the country.
Hours after getting the Union Home Ministry guidelines, the Jharkhand government on Wednesday appointed nodal officers to come out with a work plan. Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the MHAs decision, Chief Minister Hemant Soren said that the state would require central assistance in this regard as Jharkhand has limited transport facilities.
“The government has received the orders from the central government, we have appointed nodal officers to get work plan,” Soren said.