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COVID-19: Bihar to reimburse train fare, provide financial assistance if inmates complete quarantine

A worker sprays disinfectant on the bag of a passenger at Rajendra Nagar Terminal following the resumption of passenger train services by Indian Railways connecting major cities, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Patna, Thursday, May 14, 2020.

A worker sprays disinfectant on the bag of a passenger at Rajendra Nagar Terminal following the resumption of passenger train services by Indian Railways connecting major cities, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Patna, Thursday, May 14, 2020.

Amid regular reports of protest and road blockades by migrants over poor quality of food and lack of basic amenities at COVID-19 quarantine centres , the Bihar government has announced that only those inmates who complete 14-day quarantine period at centres and stay seven days at home maintaining “discipline” would be reimbursed their train fare and would get financial assistance .

The State Disaster Management Department (DMD) principal secretary Pratyaya Amrit, who is also designated as State nodal officer for COVID-19, issued a letter (No: 1873) on May 13, 2020 to all District Magistrates (DMs) asking them to “publicise in the next 24 hours through loudspeaker/PA (Public Address) system at all quarantine centres that only those inmates who complete their 14-day quarantine period at the centres and seven days at home maintaining discipline would be reimbursed their train fare and get other financial assistance”.

Also read: 70 migrant workers jump quarantine in Bihar

“About discipline at block quarantine centres”, is the subject of the one-page letter in possession of The Hindu . “A large number of migrants are housed at block quarantine centres. Some of them even are not only putting pressure to go home but also we’re getting reports on violations of discipline (by them) like road blockade etc.,” said the letter addressed to all DMs in the State in Hindi.

3,665 quarantine centres

The State Disaster Management Department is running about 3,665 quarantine centres at the block level in districts where currently over 1.3 lakh migrants are housed.

On May 4, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that the State government would not only reimburse the train fare but also give additional ₹500 to all those migrant returnees after completion of their 21-day quarantine.

Everyday, thousands of migrants are returning to different stations in Bihar by trains and housed at quarantine centres at block levels in their respective districts.

However, several videos of migrants protesting against poor, sub-standard food and lack of basic amenties at these centres have gone viral on social media, apparently causing embarrassment to the State government.

From some centres like Katihar and Nawada, the migrants fled complaining “naarkiya (hellish)” condition there.

At other places such as Kaimur district and Pandarak of rural Patna district, the migrants complained about lack of toilets while, at other places such as Muzaffarpur, Saharsha, Purnea, Rohtas, Sitamarhi, Banka, Begusarai, Siwan, West Champaran, Bhojpur they complained about lack of soaps, sanitisers, masks and other amenities.

Also read: 170 migrants test positive in Bihar in one week

Mr. Kumar, who is said to be monitoring the pandemic situation and quarantine centres round the clock with everyday meetings with top officials, had directed them to provide all basic amenities such as food, lodging and medical facilities.

The Chief Minister also reportedly said that block quarantine centres were the most important strategy in the direction of checking COVID-19 spread in community.

‘Torture camps’

However, Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav dubbed the quarantine centres as “torture camps”.

Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari said: “Now by saying that only those inmates who maintain discipline at quarantine centre would be reimbursed their train fare and get financial assistance, the government wants to douse the simmering discontent among migrants housed at quarantine centres bereft of any basic facilities…but all the tall claims of government’s preparation have already been exposed through the viral videos posted by these quarantined migrants themselves.”

Bihar, so far, has reported seven deaths and 953 positive cases.

HC seeks reply

Meanwhile, hearing a petition, a Division Bench of the Patna High Court headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Karol on Wednesday sought a reply from the Bihar government related with preparations at the quarantine centres. The court fixed May 19 as the next date of hearing in the case.

A resident of Saran district, Ravi Ranjan, had filed the petition in the court alleging that quality of food served to migrants at these centres was not of “desired level”.

 


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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 11:12:26 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-bihar-to-reimburse-train-fare-provide-financial-assistance-if-inmates-complete-quarantine/article61657338.ece