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Staff at quarantine centres in Bihar allege abusive behaviour by migrants

A health official places the home quarantine stamp on a passenger in a bus at Mithapur bus stand in Patna, Bihar. File photo

A health official places the home quarantine stamp on a passenger in a bus at Mithapur bus stand in Patna, Bihar. File photo   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

They say they feel threatened by inmates “desperate to go home”

With over 11 lakh migrants said to be quarantined at schools and government buildings at block and panchayat level in Bihar, teachers and staff deputed there feel threatened after being abused by migrants “desperate to go home”.

On Saturday, a teacher at a centre at Jokihat in Araria district of north-east Bihar was allegedly abused and thrashed by migrants when they were asked to maintain social distance at the breakfast time.

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The migrants also allegedly abuse teachers and other staff on duty, demanding their release from the centre as early as possible. “They even threaten to come to us and physically hug”, said a teacher posted at a quarantine centre in Hasanganj block of Katihar district.

“The migrants, in fact, appear desperate to go home, which happen to be just a few kilometres from the centre. Many of them traversed thousands of kilometres for several days and have been quarantined near their houses”, said a school staff member posted at a centre in Sasaram district.

“We constantly live and do our duty under threat and humiliation…nobody understands our problem”, he added.

At some places, the migrants put pressure on the teachers on duty to release them from the quarantine centres to visit their family members at night.

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“If we do not let them go, they threaten and abuse us, if we do, the officials threaten us to take action…we’re caught between the devil and the deep sea”, a group of teachers posted at quarantine centres in Palasi block of Araria district alleged.

Similarly, at Pranpur block of neighbouring Katihar district, several teachers posted at quarantine centres have reportedly complained to the block administration officials about the threats and abuse by the migrants.

Earlier, reports of migrants enjoying sleazy dance, country-made liquor and cannabis and indulging in brawls had also come from some quarantine centres in the State.

At some centres, the migrants allegedly demand sleazy movies and TV sets in the name of “entertainment”, said a teacher of Bhojpur district.

Workers protest

On Saturday, migrants staying at a quarantine centre at Katoria Dharmshala in Banka district protested against the lack of basic amenities, blocked the road from Belhar to Banka and allegedly manhandled local Rashtriya Janata Dal MLA Ramdev Yadav. The MLA was caught in the midst of the protest and asked them to open the blockade for his further journey.

“Under the influence of liquor and contraband, they often threaten us with dire consequences if we ask them to maintain social distancing or to form a queue to take meal”, several teachers The Hindu spoke to over phone rued.

“We fear immediate departmental action against us, if we reveal our name… but nobody is ready to listen to our plight”, they said.

“We’re even denied proper safety kits at the centres to protect ourselves from the contagious disease”, they added.

When asked about the teachers’ complaints at the quarantine centres, a block-level official from Katihar admitted, on condition of anonymity, there were problems.

“Yes, it’s true but not all migrants are like that…some of them have bad habits and upon getting complaints, we take stern action against such unscrupulous migrants”, he said.

The Seemanchal (border) districts of northeast Bihar Katihar, Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj and Saharsha have been the hub of migrants in the State.

Out of 186 COVID-19 positive cases from this part of the State, many are said to be migrants. Nearly two lakh migrants are currently lodged at 1,800 quarantine centres in Seemanchal area.

There are total 14,472 block-level quarantine centres in Bihar, in which over 11 lakh migrants are housed. The State Disaster Management Department too is running 114 relief centres, in which over 40 thousand migrants are quarantined.

“Since May 3, a total of 1754 migrants have been tested COVID-19 positive in the State — the majority have come from Delhi (411), Maharashtra (403), Gujarat (276), Haryana (146), Rajasthan (95), Uttar Pradesh (89) and Telangana (81)”, said State Information and Public Relation Department Anuran Kumar.

With the huge number of influx of migrants, the State government now has reduced the quarantine period from 21 days to 14 at the centres. The government has also decided to quarantine only those migrants who come from 11 cities designated as hotspots in the country.

“The rest will be told to be under home-quarantine after screening”, said an official.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 7:06:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/staff-at-quarantine-centres-in-bihar-allege-abusive-behaviour-by-migrants/article31676940.ece

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