The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar has made a laughing stock of itself.

On Monday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while interacting with the Prime Minister through video-conferencing, had said that it was not possible for the state government to bring back all those stranded in various parts of the country until the Centre makes amendments in its lockdown rules.

Now that the Centre has eased lockdown restrictions allowing the States to bring back migrant workers, students and pilgrims stranded across the country, the Bihar government now says that it is not possible to bring all of them back home by buses. The government has now appealed to the centre to rather start non-stop special trains so that they could be brought home soon.

“There are around 27 lakh people from Bihar stranded across various Indian cities such as Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, and it is just impossible to bring them back by buses as each bus will take a minimum of 6-7 days to complete its journey,” Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said today. He said it is just impractical to ferry Bihari migrants by buses as it will take months to complete this task.

He urged the centre to start non-stop special trains to bring the people of Bihar stuck outside the state given their huge numbers.

“According to our data, more than 27 lakh people have applied for financial assistance (of Rs1,000 each) to the chief minister. Of them, a majority of five lakh have applied from Delhi alone, followed by 2.68 lakh from Maharashtra, one lakh from Karnataka, two lakh from Gujarat and thousands from other states. Is it practical to bring such a huge number of people by buses?” he asked.

Another Bihar minister and JD-U leader Ashok Kumar Chaudhary too offered similar explanations, virtually rejecting the centre’s announcement asking the state governments to initiate steps at their own levels to bring their citizens back.

“We have information that more than 25 lakh migrant labourers are stuck in various parts of the country. If we follow social distancing norm, then a maximum of 15-20 people could be accommodated in a single bus. According to this calculation, around 1.70 lakh buses will be required to bring back 25 lakh registered labourers. There are lakhs of unregistered labourers and students also,” said Chaudhary who is considered close to the chief minister. Strangely, the chief minister, who has been quite vocal over the issue for the past over a fortnight, has maintained a stoic silence.

Going by this explanation, the fate of lakhs of Bihari migrants hangs in a balance once again. The hope of the stranded people had brightened soon after the centre eased lockdown rules yesterday and allowed the state governments to do whatever they want to bring their people back home. The pleased migrants had even started calling up their homes curious to know about what efforts the state government is making to bring them back but the fresh objection by the Nitish Kumar government has again dampened their spirits.

In a curious move, however, former MP Pappu Yadav has sent 30 buses to Kota to bring back students stuck there but the Kota administration has refused to send them back until a minimum of 250 buses were sent there. About 11,000 students from Bihar are stuck in Kota.