Lessons should be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic which saw unprecedented reverse migration, members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma, said at a meeting on Wednesday.
The Committee has advised the government to set up a national database of migrant workers so that they don’t fall out of the social security cover.
The members, it is learnt, asked the Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and other officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, to explain if better coordination between States and districts could have prevented the massive exodus of migrant workers many of whom trudged back many kilometres to their home States.
Health Ministry, Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal along with others from the Ministry were also present at the meeting. The officials, sources said, informed the panel that if a nationwide lockdown had not been imposed, the number of cases could have gone up to 50 lakh and we would have seen nearly 1.5 lakh deaths.
As per the latest figures, the total number of coronavirus positive cases is close to 9.3 lakh and India has reported over 24,000 deaths. The officials also warned that going by the global trends, the number of cases will continue to spiral and projections for weeks ahead is grim.
“This pandemic has brought to the fore the gaping holes in our social security network, which need to be plugged. The government can announce any plans but unless the benefit reaches the concerned, it is of no utility,” one of the members said. The committee has urged that the government come up with the data base at the earliest since the pandemic and consequent economic uncertainty is likely to continue for while.
Call for national plan
Sources said the members including BJP General Secretary Anil Jain, flagged the black-marketing of essential drugs. The members slammed the Union Health Ministry for pushing more expensive drug and treatment protocols when cheaper options were available. The Union Health Ministry officials, according to sources, pointed out that currently, more than the ventilators, oxygen cylinders were in short supply.
Also read: TISS team generates data on migrant workers
The members also questioned the government on whether it has so far evolved a national, State and district level plan under the National Disaster Management Act to handle the COVID-19 considering the country is in the fourth month of the pandemic.