Over a million migrants workers have returned to Bengal, says Mamata
‘A portion of PM-CARES funds could be used as a one-time grant for migrant workers’
Refuting allegations that the State is not facilitating the return of migrants, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that almost 1 million migrants had already returned to the State.
“If we did not allow migrants to return, then how come only by train 2.4 lakh people have returned so far. Another 1.5 lakh will return within June 10, and around 6.5 lakh have returned by road. If we are not allowing migrants to return, then how come 10.5 lakh will have entered Bengal by June 10?” the Chief Minister asked while addressing a video conference with district and State officials.
Speaking to district officials through a video conference that was telecast live on TV channels and on the social media handles of the Chief Minister, Ms. Banerjee said that what she had asked of the Centre about migrants was being misinterpreted. “What we had told the Centre was that if you had arranged for the return of the migrant workers before declaring the lockdown, then they would not have had to suffer so much for the last three months. Our second point was that those migrant workers who have been languishing [in different States] were not given proper food or treatment and no help was extended to them. Our third point was that train fares were taken from the migrant workers. Only the West Bengal government paid for the train fares [for those returning to Bengal],” she said.
Database of migrants
Ms. Banerjee referred to the ‘Sneher Parash’ (touch of affection) scheme launched by her government, through which 4.57 lakh stranded migrant workers received ₹1,000 each. The State government is also spending ₹25 crore by way of train fares for migrant workers. Ms. Banerjee said that the total expenditure at the institutional quarantine centres where the returning migrants are being put up amounts to around ₹3 crore per day. The State government has also extended ₹16 crore to 1,62,808 workers in the unorganised sector during the lockdown period, she added.
The Chief Minister also alleged that some people were trying to “provoke” migrant workers and urged them [the migrant workers] not to pay heed to them [the provocateurs]. She also instructed all District Magistrates to create a database of migrant workers on the basis of their skills so that, in the future, the State could create a bank of manpower and provide them livelihood opportunities with the available resources.
“We will have to ensure these migrant workers do not have to leave the State in search of a job. They have suffered a lot, at places they have not even received proper food. We do not want them to suffer any more. There is no dearth of opportunities here,” Ms. Banerjee added.
‘₹10,000 for each worker from PM-CARES’
Earlier in the day, the Chief Minister had suggested that a portion of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES) could be used as a one-time grant for migrant workers. She tweeted: “People have been facing economic hardship of unimaginable proportions bcz of the ongoing pandemic. I appeal to Central Govt to transfer ₹10,000 each as one-time assistance to migrant labourers including people in unorganized sector. A portion of PM-CARES could be used for this”.