The Union government on Sunday said that workers stranded in relief camps could go to work within the states they were in but didn’t give permission to let them go back to their home states or allow any interstate movement.
The home ministry issued a “standard operating system for movement of stranded labour” to allow workers to resume work from April 20 when additional economic activities will begin in areas not
designated as “containment zones”.
The government has said that migrant workers residing in relief camps in various states should be registered with the local authorities “and their skill-mapping be carried out to find out their suitability
for various kinds of work”. “In the event…migrants wish to return to their place of work, within the state where they are presently located, they would be screened and those asymptomatic would be transported to their respective places of work,” the guidelines said.
However, many states in India have witnessed a surge in coronavirus disease cases that reported asymptomatic symptoms or in other words, without any symptoms associated with the disease. Also, the government did not elaborate on the procedure to screen such workers. For instance, in Maharashtra, 70-75 per cent of over 3,000 Covid-19 positive cases were asymptomatic. In Karnataka, this ratio stood at around 60 per cent. In Delhi, all 186 Covid-19 cases reported on Sunday were asymptomatic.
“It may be noted that there shall be no movement of labour outside the state from where they are currently located,” the home ministry’s guidelines emphasised.
It mentioned that the migrant workers may be transported in buses in which social distancing norms will have to be followed. “The local authorities shall also provide for food and water for the duration of their journey,” it added. Movement of workers to and from their workplaces was a big concern flagged by the industry to the government. The government’s revised lockdown guidelines, effective from April 15, had said the transportation of workers to factories needs to be arranged by staff and the workers should then stay within the work premises.
However, some state governments are contemplating disallowing any movement of labour. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said in a statement that the stay of workers on the premises in large factories may not be possible at short notice and they should be allowed to stay in nearby facilities. Also, movement passes for workers to travel to and from the establishments is a big issue for many industries, Rajan Lamba, president, Bawana Industrial Association in Delhi, said in a meeting with the deputy commissioner of police (Outer North Delhi) on April 17.
Procuring thermal guns for screening of workers was another set of problems highlighted in the meeting as they were often unavailable and expensive. The CII suggested that a gap of one hour between shifts, as suggested by the government’s fresh lockdown guidelines, may not be possible in plants with continuous operations.