Mumbai

Medical certificate not mandatory for migrants

End of an ordeal: Migrant workers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, wait outside a civic-run health clinic to obtain a medical certificate, in Matunga.   | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe

The State government on Thursday removed the provision mandating migrants and those stuck in the State to provide a medical certificate along with their application to go back home. Workers were being charged anywhere between ₹150 and ₹500 for medical certificates and there were long queues outside doctors’ clinics across the city every day.

Thursday’s directive said migrants and stranded persons who wanted to go back to their home States should be screened at the time of starting their journey using a digital thermometer and symptomatic examination. “This will be done free of cost through medical officers of municipal corporations or by hiring the services of registered medical practitioners by the municipal corporations,” the order said.

The directive also said that a single list of passengers indicating that they have been screened and found to be not displaying any “influenza-like illnesses” needs to be issued by the medical person in charge. “There will be no need for individual certificates,” the order said.

Series of circulars

Since the State government first announced its decision to allow migrant workers to travel home, thousands have made a beeline outside doctors’ clinics over the past week, with many paying as much as ₹500 for the certificate. The requirement for each migrant worker to get a medical certificate was part of a set of guidelines released by the State on May 1.

However, the move was severely criticised by activists and workers, many of whom had no money to pay for the certificates.

In the days to follow, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) brought out a series of circulars in an attempt to mitigate the issues caused by the provision. On May 3, for instance, the BMC issued a circular clarifying that all government hospitals, medical colleges and private practitioners are allowed to issue certificates.

A day later, it said it will hold large-scale health camps in public open spaces with the help of private practitioners and issue free medical certificates to labourers. However, these notifications did not resolve the issue.

Activists have been critical of the provision after they were flooded with reports of doctors fleecing marginalised migrant workers, many of whom had to borrow money to get a certificate. “It did not make sense even from a public health perspective for workers to be screened with no clarity on when they would be travelling. The workers could well develop symptoms in the time between submitting their application and boarding the train,” said Brinelle D’Souza of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.

She said medical camps should be set up only a day or two before the date of travel and the workers should also be screened at the home State upon arrival.

Activists write to PM, CM

Earlier in the day, 30 activists, academics and researchers wrote an open letter addressed to the Prime Minster and the Chief Minister highlighting the plight of workers who were trying to go back home. Among their key recommendations was free screening camps at the boarding point.

They also sought free travel for workers and said the cost should be shared by the Maharashtra government, the home State of the workers and/or the Central government and the Ministry of Railways.

In their letter, they have also made recommendations on what the governments can do in order to ensure that the workers have a smooth and safe passage back home, stating transport should be treated as a relief, rescue or rehabilitation operation under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005. “The State government should also take on the responsibility of making the list and the groups. At present, the onus of making these groups is on workers, who may or may not find people of their home district in the vicinity of where they live,” said Shweta Damle, director, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association.

The missive also recommends that a clear warning should be given to police stations that are refusing to accept travel applications. The letter also said all workers should get an acknowledgement receipt upon submitting the application.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 2:32:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/medical-certificate-not-mandatory-for-migrants/article31530422.ece

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