Centre orders "containment measures" for displaced migrants

Published : March 30, 2020 16:41 IST

Migrants walking to their village in the wake of the lockdown, at NH4 in East Delhi on March 29. Photo: PTI

The Central government has come up with a set of extreme containment measures in the wake of the mass reverse migration under way from cities to villages.

On March 29, the Union Cabinet Secretary and Home Secretary convened a video conference with the Chief Secretaries of Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi. What transpired in that video conference is not entirely known, but one thing was clear: the Central government was clearly unhappy over the bad “optics” of huge numbers of migrants congregating at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.

In a communication to all Haryana State police officials, the Director-General of Police (DGP) stated that at the video conference, the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary “expressed their alarm and unhappiness at the large-scale movement of migrant labour on foot followed by accumulation of large number of people at the Anand Vihar Bus Terminal. In order to disperse the crowds from this area, buses had to be provided in large numbers on the evenings of March 27 and 28”.

The Chief Secretaries were told that under the orders issued by the Home Ministry and as per the Disaster Management Act, State governments were duty-bound to “prevent such large-scale movement of people in violation of lockdown guidelines”. District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police had to ensure that there was “no movement of people on roads” as the “nation is facing a public health emergency and such large-scale public movement entails huge risks”.

The Haryana DGP’s letter listed out various measures to prevent people from walking on the roads. The inter-State borders would be sealed and no one, whether travelling in a bus/truck/ tractor trolley or on foot/bicycles, would be allowed to cross the borders.

“They should be turned back without exception. Those travelling on foot within the districts/highways on roads should be picked up, placed in buses and left in localities from where they started. A public announcement should be made that plying of buses from Anand Vihar Bus Terminal has been stopped and no transport shall be provided for anyone for travelling to Uttar Pradesh or beyond,” the communication said.

The Haryana government also plans to convert indoor stadiums and similar facilities into temporary “jails” to house people who “refuse to obey the lawful directions of district administration”.  

A “zero tolerance policy” is to be followed towards anyone found violating the lockdown guidelines and “jay walking on the roads with luggage and family members” is completely prohibited. The letter further stated that “rather than facilitating such movements, the district administration should discourage and penalise such behaviour”.

The letter also said: “In addition, shelter camps should be established by the District Administration for providing boarding and lodging facilities to these people who do not have a home to go back to.”