The Centre on Saturday launched an online dashboard to monitor and streamline the movement of migrant workers across states amid the nationwide lockdown to rein in the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla urged states to upload the details of migrants on the dashboard and to utilise the system as the portal will maintain a repository. “To capture the information regarding movement of migrants and facilitate their smooth movement across states, National Disaster Management Authority has developed an online dashboard National Migrant Information System on the existing NDMA-GIS portal,” Bhalla said.

He also added that the dashboard will help the states and districts, sending as well as receiving the migrants, to seek and receive approval in an online format seamlessly. “This system will help in speedy communication between states without creating additional work at the level of the field officers,” the home secretary added. “It has additional advantages like contact tracing, which may be useful in overall Covid response work.”

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A unique identification will be generated for the migrants and their mobile numbers could be used for tracing their contacts, Bhall said in his letter.

The home ministry added that this will help the states visualise how many people are on the move, from where and how many are reaching the destination. It said the central nodal ministries can also monitor the movement though this portal.

It said key data pertaining to the migrating persons such as name, age, mobile no, originating station, destination district, date of travel etc has been standardised for uploading on the portal. “As many states have already collected data on migrants, this can be integrated through Application Programming Interface,” the ministry added.

In a note, the Centre also said there were many problems involved in the movement of migrants including contact tracing, planning of trains and quarantine facilities and their return. So far, around 3.5 lakh migrants have travelled in 350 trains. “Further to provide facility of contact tracing, both individual particulars and spatial identifiers [origin, destination address] need to be may also be noted that many of the workers may undertake reverse journeys in the near future,” it said. “A ready database can be of help in planning such return journeys in a systematic manner.”

The disaster management authority said the dashboard is a geospatial platform developed to tackle the pandemic. “It may be noted that the system may not require any substantive additional work on part of the field officials,” the NDMA added. “It will also not take away the governance power from the state government, within the overall guidelines of MHA.”

With no work and depleted resources, many migrants, attempting to return to their hometowns, have set out on gruelling journeys on foot, cycles, or any other means of transport they could find. Some also died on their way while a few others died in accidents. Last month, the Centre arranged for the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and “other persons” by Shramik Special trains to be operated by the railways during the lockdown.