New Delhi: A day ahead of the reopening of the agriculture, industry and construction sectors in ‘Green Zones’ that are less affected by Covid-19, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines to states, spelling out the protocol for how workers are to be transported to work sites.
The workers currently housed in relief camps in various states will have to first register with local authorities, who will carry out skill-mapping to find their suitability for various kinds of work available in the district. Once skill-mapping is done, the workers wishing to return to their places of work will be screened by the district administration, and only those who don’t have any Covid-19 symptoms will be transported.
However, the home ministry guidelines make it clear that the movement of migrant workers outside the state or union territory where they are currently located is prohibited.
Lakhs of workers across India were left without livelihoods when the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus began on 25 March. While many were able to reach their villages, several others were left stranded in relief camps in different states.
This had led to growing concern in the government that if livelihood issues are not resolved, it could escalate into a law and order problem. As a result, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last Tuesday that select economic activities will be allowed to resume from 20 April in districts with no or low incidence of Covid-19 cases.
But in the absence of clarity from the Centre, states and district administrations were left grappling with logistical challenges of how and whom to transport to the work sites.
Onus on states to ensure social distancing
The home ministry guidelines also put the onus on the state and district administrations to ensure that social distancing norms are followed by the workers during the journey by bus.
District administrations will also have to ensure that the buses used for transport are sanitised according to the guidelines framed by health authorities.
“The local authorities shall provide for food and water, etc. for the duration of their journey,” the fresh guidelines state.
Some states, like Punjab, have already issued their own guidelines that industries that want to start operating from Monday will have to adhere to. Punjab has said that any factory or industry which requires more than ten workers will have to arrange for their accommodation and food within the premises, or in nearby areas. They also state that industries will have to screen the workers daily, and provide sanitisers and masks.