Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday questioned Centre’s preparedness for the 21-day nationwide lockdown as a mass exodus has been witnessed since Wednesday with migrant labourers walking miles and miles to reach their villages.
In a tweet, the former finance minister sought to know what the Centre and state governments are doing about the migrant workers who are allowed to leave the cities and return to their villages.
He further said the workers forced to return to their villages or on foot has “significantly dented the purpose of the lockdown.” He called it “another distressing example of the governments’ unpreparedness”.
‘Back to villages’ in crowded buses or on foot has significantly dented the lockdown.
It is another distressing example of the governments’ unpreparedness.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 28, 2020
The reaction came as the Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday sent hundreds of buses to evacuate the migrant workers from the state who have been stranded in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
Chidambaram had on Wednesday described the lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “watershed moment” in the battle against COVID-19 and called Modi as the commander and the people as “foot soldiers”.
Four days into the 21-day “total lockdown” across India, thousands of migrant labourers are walking long distances back to their home villages after all transport was stopped except for essential services.
Since Wednesday, scores of migrant workers have been spotted at Delhi-Ghaziabad border who were on their way home on foot crossing miles after miles.
The Centre on Friday issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories to make adequate arrangements for migrant workers and students from other states amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Union Home Secretary has written to all States and UTs to take immediate steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter, to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
Further, the States and UTs have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the Government including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the distribution system and thereby, help prevent avoidable movement of people.
Earlier in the day, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi had appealed to the general public and his party workers and ministers to provide food and shelter to the homebound migrants moving on foot passing through their towns, cities and villages.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced a complete lockdown of the entire country for 21 days in an unprecedented drastic measure to try halt the spread of coronavirus shortly after which the Centre said all road, rail and air services will remain suspended during this period.