On May 5, as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that his government has made all facilities, including food, medical care, toilets and running water, available at quarantine centres, over 20 migrants escaped from a center in Katihar in northeast Bihar complaining lack of basic amenities and food.
“I’ve instructed officials to make all arrangements at quarantine centres,” Mr Kumar said in a video released by the governemnt. Later, a press release from his office reiterated the same.
The announcement comes a day after the Chief Minister’s announcement that returning migrants will be reimbursed their fare and given additional ₹500 on completion of quarantine.
However, over 20 migrants who had recently returned from Punjab, Delhi and Haryana, escaped from a quarantine centre in Katihar. About 100 migrant workers were placed in the centre on Saturday on their arrival by bus from Patna.
A local journalist told The Hindu that they had demanded the food and other facilities announced by the Chief Minister. When this was denied, they broke the lock of the main gate of the quarantine centre and escaped amid rains in the area, he said. A few policemen, deputed for security, were seen seeking shelter from the rain and reluctant bring back them, he added.
Later, the Katihar Sub-Divisional Officer Neeraj Kumar and town police Inspector Ranjan Kumar Singh reached the centre and took stock of the situation there.
“We’re probing the incident…why and how the migrants escaped,” police said.
Sources The Hindu spoke to said the guidelines set by the Central government for quarantine facilities are not being followed in Bihar.
“In its 40-page guideline, the Centre has categorically laid out the facilities for quarantine centres but in Bihar at many such centres these guidelines are not followed and the condition is pathetic…so people are fleeing from there,” a retired government employee in Araria district said.
Meanwhile, migrants and students are returning to the State in several trains at different stations and are being taken to quarantine centres for 21 days.
The students and minors are being put in home quarantined. According to the State Disaster Management Department, the government is running 2,450 quarantine centres where over 9,000 people have been sheltered. The State, so far, has made arrangement for accommodation of 2.5 lakh migrants at these centres at the block level in different districts. Bihar has reported 535 COVID-19 positive cases yet with four deaths.