The government said on Tuesday that the mass movement of the migrants during Covid-19 lockdown resulted from ‘fake news’. The home ministry said this in response to the question by Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy on what were the steps taken to protect migrant labourers before the national lockdown was announced.
The question also sought to know the reason behind thousand of labourers walking for home which resulted in many deaths, a report in NDTV said.
“The migration of large number of migrant workers was triggered by panic created by fake news regarding duration of lockdown, and people, especially migrant labourers, were worried about adequate supply of basic necessities like food, drinking water, health services and shelter,” Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said.
Over 1.04 crore migrant workers returned to their respective home states during the lockdown with Uttar Pradesh topping the list with 32.4 lakh workers, followed by Bihar (15 lakh) and Rajasthan (13 lakh), the minsitry informed the Parliament. More than 4,611 Shramik Special trains were run by the Railways since May 1 to ferry migrants to their home states and over 63.07 lakhs were shifted to various destinations in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and other states.
Several migrant workers, who either walked or travelled in other private vehicles, met with accidents throughout the lockdown period. An analysis of news reports in national media shows that more than 100 migrant workers were killed in accidents since lockdown was initiated, while hundreds of others sustained grave injuries.
“However, the central government was fully conscious of this, and took all necessary measures to ensure that during the period of the inevitable lockdown, no citizen should be deprived of basic amenities of food, drinking water, medical facilities etc,” according to NDTV, the minister told Lok Sabha.
According to Nityanand Rai, the centre “allowed the state governments to use the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) on 28th March itself” for providing temporary accommodation, food, clothing, medical care, etc., to homeless people as well as migrant workers.
The Union Minister added that to augment the funds with the states, the Centre released an advance Rs.11, 092 crores from the state disaster funds to states on April 3.
Yesterday a question sought information on the state-wise details of the death toll of migrant workers who lost their lives while trying to return to their native places after losing jobs amid the pandemic to which the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment informed the Parliament that no data has been maintained by the government on the number of migrant deaths that occurred due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 lockdown initiated on March 25.
In an earlier report by News18, it was noted that these figures were based on accidents and incidents that were reported in the media and, therefore, the actual death toll could be higher than estimated.