Feeding centres, medical care and sanitised transport services are needed to provide immediate relief to the lakhs of migrant workers stranded on roads, said an appeal to the Central government signed by 200 academics, economists, social activists, lawyers, retired bureaucrats and concerned citizens . The sudden imposition of a 21-day lockdown, with just four hours notice, has had horrific consequences leading to a humanitarian crisis, it said.
“This decision, taken without proper planning, completely overlooked the disastrous impact it would have on 90% of our labour force,” said the appeal. “Many of them are stranded and starving in the industrial belts where they work. In the absence of any transport, many are walking hundreds of kilometres to their villages on a hungry stomach. Others, in desperation, are packing themselves in lorries, at the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.”
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The letter urged the Centre to take immediate action and use the network of anganwadis, panchayat bhavans, government schools and colleges, railway and bus stations, community halls and other public buildings to set up feeding centres to arrange free cooked food, medical care and sanitation. It noted that the Food Corporation of India and the Central Warehousing Corporation have 585 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains in their godowns, part of which can be used to feed the workers.
The Centre’s welfare package , announced on Thursday, included a doubling of ration allocations, but did not provide for migrants, most of whom do not have access to a ration card.
The appeal urged the government to arrange for sanitised bus and train services to enable stranded workers to reach home and ensure support to those who were still at their workplaces.