New Delhi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking permission to run chartered flights to bring back about 900 migrant workers, who are stranded in inhospitable terrains of Ladakh and north-eastern states, to their “motherland with dignity”.
The Jharkhand government is going to bear the entire cost of flying the migrant workers back home, said the letter dated 20 May.
Soren’s letter is more of a political messaging at a time when the Narendra Modi government has got mired in controversy over its decision to charge migrant workers for transporting them to their respective home state in special Shramik trains.
With this move, Jharkhand has also become the first state to demand permission to fly back stranded migrant workers.
In his letter, CM Hemant Soren wrote, “Due to difficult terrain of these states it is extremely difficult to evacuate them by train or bus. One of the better viable solutions can be lifting by air. This is not possible in the present circumstances because plying of service and chartered flights has been prohibited by the lockdown orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
Before this, Jharkhand Chief Secretary Sukhdeo Singh had written to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on 12 May seeking permission to run a chartered flight to Andaman and Nicobar Islands to bring back the state’s stranded migrant workers.
But the Jharkhand government is yet to get a response from the Centre.
“We are waiting to hear from the Centre as without their permission the chartered flights can’t be operated,” said a state government official who didn’t wish to be named.
Soren in his letter further said that it was him who had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow interstate movement of stranded workers and other persons to facilitate their return to Jharkhand.
“My request was acceded to and so far we have been able to bring back around 1.5 lakh stranded workers, students and other persons by trains and buses,” the letter said.
Over 4 lakh migrant workers from Jharkhand, who were working in cities, got stuck without money or other resources after the nationwide lockdown was enforced on 25 March to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Many of them started for their homes on foot. After the migrant labour crisis hit headlines, the Modi government stepped in to provide buses and later special trains to transport the workers home.