Home Ministry asks states/UTs to take welfare measures for migrant workers hit by COVID-19 lockdown

New Delhi: The Centre has asked all states and Union Territories to take welfare measures, including food, shelter, medicine, mobile and video call facilities, for migrant labourers living in various relief camps across the country. In a communication to the state governments and Union Territory (UT) administrations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) highlighted the Supreme Court directions regarding welfare of migrant labourers housed at relief shelters and camps in different parts of the country.

The home ministry has written to all states/UTs to take necessary action in compliance of the directions of the top court, while implementing lockdown measures to fight COVID-19 effectively, an official statement said.

The Supreme Court has directed that adequate medical facilities besides proper arrangements for food, clean drinking water and sanitation be ensured for migrant workers at relief camps across the country.

Further, trained counselors or community group leaders belonging to all faiths should visit the relief camps and shelter homes and deal with any consternation that the migrants might be going through.

The apex court had also observed that the anxiety and fear of migrants should be understood by police and other authorities, and that they should deal with the migrants in a humane manner.

Further, the state governments/UTs should endeavour to engage volunteers along with the police to supervise the welfare activities of the migrants.

The home ministry communication also reiterated the directions given by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to all states to deal with psychosocial issues among migrants.

The health ministry had said the migrants are less familiar in their new environment in which they temporarily live and are prone to various social, psychological and emotional trauma in such situations, emanating from fear of neglect by the local community and concerns about well being and safety of their families waiting in their native places.

Migrants are forced to leave their native places in search of better opportunities and earnings, sometime leaving behind their families.

In many instances, the families in native places depend partially or entirely on the money sent by the migrant earning members of the family.

During the outbreak of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, and the restrictions imposed on routine activities as part of social distancing norms to prevent the spread of the disease, scores of migrant workers tend to move back to their native places.

During the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic also, many migrant workers used all possible means to reach their native states.

Many of them are, however, stuck at borders, including at state, district and national border areas.

These are the most marginalised sections of the society who are dependent on daily wages for their living, and in times of such distress need sympathy and understanding of the society.

Sometimes, they also face harassment and negative reactions of the local community. All this calls for strong social protection.

As an immediate response, measures to be taken should include ensuring community shelters and kitchens, making other relief material available, emphasising on the need for social distancing, identification of suspected cases of infection and adherence to protocols for management of such cases, putting up mechanisms to enable them to reach their family through telephone, video calls etc, and ensuring their physical safety, the communication added.

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