Coronavirus lockdown | M.P. in the middle of a migrant rush

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan asked neighbouring counterparts yo coordinate with him

May 16, 2020 03:47 pm | Updated 10:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Migrant labourers from Telangana arrive at Habibganj Railway station in Bhopal. File

Migrant labourers from Telangana arrive at Habibganj Railway station in Bhopal. File

Apart from a late start in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic due to political developments, Madhya Pradesh is also besieged by lakhs of inter-State migrant labour , en route on foot from States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana towards Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Responding to this, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has asked his counterparts of the States from where labourers are starting and their home States to coordinate with him in order to ensure that “nobody needs to go on foot.”

Full coverage: Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

“Madhya Pradesh is en route to anyone wishing to go from Maharashtra or southeastern States to further north, and we have had a build-up of lakhs of people crossing over towards U.P. and Bihar. “My government has deployed over 1,000 buses everyday to ferry them to the borders of the States they wish to go to, those that share a border with us. We have decided that in our State at least no one need to go on foot. We are also providing food, water, temporary shelter and even footwear for our brothers and sisters making this difficult journey,” he said in a video presser from Bhopal on Saturday.

Also read: Coronavirus | Over 9,000 test reports unaccounted for in M.P.

“I have called up the Chief Ministers of both the States where these groups of people are walking from to the destination State as well. If the States can inform us in advance as to how many people to expect, we will be better prepared to help, and the States where they are headed will also be able to make arrangements when they reach their borders,” he said. “Our government has managed the return of over 3.84 lakh of its own people from various States, and we feel no one, from any State, should be forced to into this arduous on foot journey. They are all our people.”


Mr. Chouhan noted that the problem was massive and due to the continued extension of the lockdown period “even those who were earlier prepared to wait out this period had lost hope and patience.”

Also read: Coronavirus package | Migrant workers to get free foodgrains

“Everyone wants to go home in times of trouble, we cannot hold it against our brothers and sisters,” he said.

According to one estimate, almost 70% of all inter-State labour from Maharashtra was headed towards M.P., most of them to walk further to U.P., Bihar and other States.

Mr. Chouhan acknowledged that the State’s finances were a worry but his government was trying to do some off budget borrowing for specific projects. He added that like other States, he had also asked that suitable amendments be made to the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) Act, wherein the limit for borrowing for the States be raised from 3.5% to 5.5%. “We will be able to raise ₹15,000-16,000 crore through this and it will give us some breathing space fiscally.”

Also read: Coronavirus | Madhya Pradesh caught between pandemic and penury

The Chief Minister said he expected farmers to profit from the amendments made to the Mandi Act in his State, where the farmers and private organisations have been allowed to directly deal with each other and arrive at an agreed price for their produce. He also expected the changes made to labour laws would help kick-start the economy.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | Pandemic adds to the penury of tribal migrants in Madhya Pradesh

In response to a query, he said he would announce a package of cash in hand for those engaged in professions such as washermen and barbers, who cannot hope to return to work very soon.

“Till now, Madhya Pradesh has seen an enrolment of upto 19 lakh people under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act,” he said.

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