COVID-19 & Amphan impact: Bengal govt urges other states to not rush in sending back migrant workers

West Bengal home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay on Tuesday said that the state is worried about a major public health hazard from Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak due to the influx of a huge number of migrant workers who are being sent to Bengal in trains.

Bandopadhyay said that the Bengal government had planned the arrival of 225 trains from various parts of the country to bring back migrant workers to the state, and out of this 19 have already reached. However, super cyclone Amphan hit 16 districts of Bengal right after that, including Kolkata, throwing everything haywire. The government is trying to restore normalcy in the state along with various state-run and private agencies, he said.

Under this backdrop, 206 trains are being sent as per earlier schedule from various parts of the country, bringing back migrant workers. “Both states involved have to agree to conduct this process, but some states are too eager to go ahead with it,” the home secretary said.

Bandopadhyay explained that the state government has been working to restore services in the areas hit by Amphan – including power supply, drinking water, apart from building homes for those who have lost them. Therefore, while the demand for the migrant workers to return is justified, it must be done in a staggered manner because it would put public health under threat as many of the states from where the migrant workers are returning, have been hugely affected by COVID-19.

“We have to ensure that those returning follow the quarantine rules. A huge amount of infrastructure and facilities are required to address this if so many trains start coming at the same time,” the home secretary said. It would put to threat doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, and even ordinary people if so many workers enter Bengal and the state is unable to follow the quarantine rules.

Chief secretary Rajiva Sinha is currently discussing the matter with senior officers in other states so that the entire process can be done in a staggered way.

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