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How Nitish put onus of solving Bihar’s problem of stranded migrants, students on Modi govt

Bihar minister Sanjay Jha says lockdown guidelines forbid inter-state travel, and other states’ moves signify different rules for different states.

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New Delhi: In Monday’s video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar once again protested that some states are not following the rules laid down by the Centre related to the lockdown, and allowing migrant labourers and stranded students to return to their states.

Nitish pointed out that it is clear from the central guidelines that no inter-state or inter-district travel is allowed. But he has been facing pressure from many quarters, including his ally BJP, to find a solution and bring back students from India’s coaching hub Kota in Rajasthan, as well as other places.

Soon after the CMs’ conference with the PM, Bihar Deputy CM and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted that he hoped the Kota students’ issue would soon be resolved.

 

However, Bihar’s water resources minister and close Nitish associate Sanjay Kumar Jha of the Janata Dal (United) told ThePrint that the ball was in the Union home ministry’s court.

“When the Union home ministry issued comprehensive guidelines on 15 April under the Disaster Management Act, and prohibited inter-district and inter-state movement, it is up to the Centre to relax rules and allow such movements. There can’t be different rules for different states. We are ready to bring back students, but there cannot be two rules,” he said.

Jha added: “Thousands of students are stranded in Delhi, Odisha, Pune… We can’t make one rule for Kota students and another for Pune students, or another for migrant labourers. Over 25 lakh people stranded outside Bihar have applied for assistance under the CM’s relief fund, and we have provided assistance to 15 lakh people, but to bring them back, the Centre has to change the rules.”

Sanjay Jaiswal, BJP MP from Bihar’s Champaran, also expressed hope the Home Minister Amit Shah would resolve the issue.

“We have received several calls from party workers and district presidents to help bring back students from not only Kota but other parts of India also. We have apprised the CM as well as the Centre of our concerns. We are hopeful that the Union home minister will resolve this matter in a day or two,” Jaiswal said.


Also read: UP’s decision to evacuate students from Kota irks Bihar while MP, Chhattisgarh follow suit


Nitish’s consistent approach 

Nitish’s stand is quite different from other states like neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, whose CM, Yogi Adityanath, sent buses to Kota and the state’s borders to bring back 7,000 students and migrant labours. Adityanath even allowed inter-district travel of labourers from Allahabad.

Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Gujarat’s Vijay Rupani, both of the BJP, have followed a similar approach to bring back their students.

However, Nitish has spoken about prioritising migrant labourers over students in Kota, especially on 18 April, when UP had sent 300 buses to fetch students.

“Students studying in Kota come from well-to-do families. What is the urgent need to get them home while migrant workers are stranded in other parts of the country?” the Bihar CM had said.

Three days before that, Nitish had written to the Centre, pointing out that letting students travel would open a Pandora’s box. “On what grounds can you then stop migrant labourers from inter-state travel?” he had asked.

A state BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity: “Nitish is protecting his vote bank by associating the Kota students with poor migrant labourers. The BJP is protecting its own vote bank, which is normally the middle class, whose children are stuck in Kota, Pune and other parts of India. But in alliance politics, we can’t be vocal in our demands; we have communicated our concerns to the government.”

The leader said the tricky situation was communicated to the BJP’s state in-charge Bhupendra Yadav and party chief J.P. Nadda last week.


Also read: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in a fix after Adityanath’s move to bring back students from Kota


Criticism won’t impact Nitish electorally

A JD(U) leader said Nitish’s approach would not impact his or the party’s electoral future.

“Nitish is a smart politician and he has the power to convince the electorate. He is showing that he is only taking PM Modi’s line of protecting lives in this difficult time. The message is that if you have faced difficulty during this time, it’s no problem, because this was essential to save your life. People supported demonetisation despite difficulties; they will support Nitish on this issue,” the leader said.

Another JD(U) leader said Nitish has taken a calculated approach.

“He knows there are two risks in allowing mass movement of migrants. One, that the numbers are huge — we have received 25 lakh applications from Biharis outside the state who are in crisis and need help. It is not possible to bring them back by sending buses; it would need calibrated strategy, resources and central support,” the second leader said.

“Two, such a huge migrant population can spread the coronavirus spread, so there needs to be quarantine space and other facilities. If the number of cases, which is under control right now, rises after they come home, this will be another challenge,” this leader said.


Also read: Bihar, Bengal Covid migrants aren’t as lucky as those from UP or MP


RJD blames Nitish for humanitarian crisis

The opposition RJD is constantly raising questions about Nitish’s “failure” to bring back students and migrants.

The party’s state chief and former minister Jagadanand Singh said: “Bihar is facing two crises — a medical disaster created by the coronavirus, and a humanitarian crisis created by Nitish Kumar through his poor handling of the issue of bringing back migrants and students.”

On the JD(U)’s argument that the coronavirus cases could go up if the migrants and students return to the state, Singh said: “The argument falls flat because why aren’t the numbers climbing where these people are currently staying?”

However, the first unnamed JD(U) leader quoted above said in the absence of Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is in jail after being convicted in the fodder scam, JD(U)’s electoral prospects are likely to suffer less.

“RJD has no credibility in the absence of Lalu, and Nitish’s credibility is intact. He does not mind the current criticism. If he handles the situation well now, nobody will remember the difficulties of this time six months later, when elections are due in the state,” the leader said.

“Right now, it is important to save lives. Nitish’s initiative to screen the whole population, like pulse polio, has received positive feedback, and it can be a game-changer in the long run,” the leader added.


Also read: How Bihar Covid situation deteriorated in 3 weeks, and why doctors fear worst is yet to come


 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The governments should allow the trucks and goods vehicles to carry the stranded migrants and labourers to go back home and their villages. This will solve a big problem everywhere. The governments should also run the special trains and buses keeping in mind the social distancing system and lockdown enforcement. This is a very important issue.. The governments should ask the NGOs to give shelter to at least 10 stranded migrants labourers otherwise their registration and grants will be cancelled. India has millions of NGOs getting the government funds.

  2. Modi is also behaving like Nitish, over 1 million Indian citizens are stranded abroad, running out of money and food. These are tax paying citizens who also remit money home. Modi has played a dirty game by denying Indian citizens the right to return home, a fundamental right based on their passport. Even third rate failed states like Pakistan have agreed to take back their citizens and India is planning to start evacuation flights in July. Meanwhile tax paying citizens on visitor, student and work visas are reduced to penury. Thiss prompted the gulf states to threaten Modi to take back its citizens, very shameful. I for one will never vote for Modi again, I was a supporter before

  3. Since 1990 , when India come out of strangualation of a particular dynasty s direct rule , has started to move on the path of development , saw one of the contradiction that Bihar (including present day Jharkhand too. } , came under the iron grip of casteist forces led by Lalu the great, and its logical inheritor Nitish , the arrogant incarnate , politicians. . While whole of India started limping on path of economic development till 1997 with opening of economy to breeze of end of dreaded licence –quota –permit Raj, Infusion of FDI and investment in infrastructure , speed accelerated during NDA regime in 1999 to 2004. From 2004 to till date is recent history and I need not write about it as most of you are witness to it. But unfortunately Bihar under Lalu and its avtar Nitish was/is forced to remain there, where it was in pre1990 days. The Lalu s and Nitish mantra for getting votes is rants of casteism and Muslim appeasement. So the hell with local development. Bihar was, Bihar is only man-power supply corporation to whole of India. While many other states of India have individually obtained development equivalence with many of the developed countries of the Europe, Bihar continue to be laggard with Lalu and Nitish looming on its political horizon. Nitish is very much right in thinking , , students and migrant workers who have been to others parts of India should stay put there. If they came to Bihar and remained in Bihar when next state level elections are due, they will vote out likes of Nitish having seen development and life-style in Punjab, Haryana, Southern part of Rajasthan, or not to speak of NCR, Gujrat, Maharshtra , TN, or Karnatka. So Nitish wants the Citizens of Bihar to stay there where they are.
    .
    But the case of students from Bihar staying in Kota or elsewhere should be considered on other points also.. Educational and coaching institutions are closed. No examinations ,are going to happen so soon due to Covid -19. More over , staying away from families and home costs hefty amount of money in shape of rents, or on kitchen supplies , All financed by family elders. When Incomes of families has stopped or reduced due to lock down why the families should be kept burdened with this cost . The costs of lodging and boardering within family will be hardly 1/5th of cost of staying away from family. If Nitish refuses to see this thing in clearer perspective . let him enjoy his irrationality and the Government of Rajasthan or central Government should arrange to send at least all stranded students to their home-towns. I will cost money and It should be incurred and be taken as collateral costs of war against pandemic. Bihar and Lalu-Nitish Peedit { लालू –नितीश पीड़ित } Biharis needs compassionate treatment till Biharis get rid of likes of Lalu and Nitish.

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