Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said his government will pay for the return of students and migrant workers stranded in different parts of the country during the coronavirus pandemic, PTI reported. The nation-wide lockdown, which began March 25, has been extended to May 17.
The decision came after Kumar received flak from the state opposition and his ally the Bharatiya Janata Party for his government’s handling of the crisis. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav had also offered to pay for the tickets of people on 50 trains that are bringing migrants home.
With businesses upended and establishments shut down, vast numbers of daily wage labourers were suddenly left without any means of sustenance and shelter in large cities after the lockdown was announced. Many, and began walking home. The Centre on Friday began running has now begun special trains and buses to transport migrant workers home.
Nitish Kumar said the state was paying Indian Railways the train fares of students, and that they would not be charged on their return.
Referring to migrant workers, Kumar added that every migrant worker would be quarantined for 21 days after reaching Bihar. “Upon discharge, they will be reimbursed the money they spent for travel and an additional Rs 500 will be given to each worker as aid,” he said. Every migrant worker will also receive a minimum of Rs 1,000 from the Bihar government.
Kumar said that some trains had already come in from Kota, where students were stranded, adding that the state was bearing the cost of these journeys.
The Bihar chief minister had earlier said he did not have the resources to arrange transportation facilities for students and migrants stranded in other states.
Kumar claimed his government had provided financial assistance to 19 lakh migrant workers stranded outside the state during the lockdown. “More such applications are being processed,” he said.
More criticism for Nitish Kumar
Tejashwi Yadav has repeatedly accused Kumar of leaving Bihari migrant workers in the lurch, as the chief minister had earlier urged them to remain where they were. Kumar had cited insufficient supplies and transportation restrictions as problems, asking the workers to stay wherever they were. During this, Yadav accused Kumar of instead spending too much state money on advertisements and schemes, including Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali that claims to combat climate change.
Kumar has maintained that following the lockdown orders very strictly had so far ensured that the coronavirus outbreak was under control in the second most populous state in the country. Bihar has recorded 517 cases and four deaths so far, according to the Ministry of Health.
RJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha alleged that Kumar often acted under pressure from the opposition. “We can see his past record of four to six months,” Jha said.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Bihar chief Sanjay Jaiswal, in a Facebook post, criticised the state government, which comprises his own party too. He claimed there was lack of clarity on the extended lockdown and on details of trains for migrants. He alleged that Bihar should take lessons from Uttar Pradesh.
“There is a problem in the Bihar government as no official comes forward in the media to clarify which shops will open in which zone, or whether trains coming in have to be registered in Bihar or other states.” Jaiswal claimed that people post whatever they want on social media and that it created confusion. “The state government should take lessons from Uttar Pradesh, where the chief secretary briefs the media. I will speak to the government.”