Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday urged people and his party workers and ministers to provide food and shelter to the migrant workers who are travelling on foot to reach their native villages across the country. The workers are leaving cities as the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus has paralysed their source of livelihood.
The nationwide lockdown, which entered its fourth day on Saturday, has left several thousand workers in the informal sector without jobs and any means of sustenance. Reports of workers walking back to their villages have also emerged from many parts of the country in the absence of public transport, which has been shut for the three-week lockdown.
“Today, hundreds of our brothers and sisters, along with their hungry and thirsty families have to move towards their villages,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter. “On this difficult path of theirs, those of you who are capable enough, provide them with food, shelter and water. The appeal to help the needy is particularly from Congress workers and leaders.”
Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law and businessman Robert Vadra, too, urged the Centre and state governments to facilitate their journey back home. “I feel terrible for the poor people, who have no food or place to stay and with the sudden coronavirus lockdown had no healthy shelter and forced to travel back to their villages,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are elderly, women, and little children who are walking back for kilometres, as there are no vehicles to transport them, and pay their savings to put the elderly in rickshaws or in these unsafe concoction of a vehicle called a ‘Jugaad’, and travel for days. I request the central government, and state governments to help these people, and I am finding ways as well if authorities can help these people at adjoining borders assist them to get home, in the safest and healthiest ways.”
On Friday, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to all states and Union Territories, urging them to take immediate steps to stop the mass exodus of migrant workers employed in the informal sector. It has asked all states and Union Territories to provide the migrant workers food, shelter and sanitation facilities.
Earlier in the day, the chief ministers of West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar also started initiatives to ensure the safety of the migrant workers. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to the chief ministers of 18 states, asking them to look after migrant labourers. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also sent a similar letter, saying that his government has made arrangements to reach out to people from other states who need help during the lockdown. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a Rs 100-crore plan to help migrants.
Meanwhile, SpiceJet Chairperson and Managing Director Ajay Singh said the airline was ready to operate some flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna to help migrant workers.