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New Delhi, March 31: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that no migrant worker was on the road, amid fears that the large-scale movement of migrants from cities to their native places on foot after the coronavirus lockdown may trigger the spread of COVID-19 in country’s hinterland.
Asserting that such migration (from cities to villages) cannot be allowed, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also told a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao that “there is a possibility of three out of 10 moving from cities to rural areas carrying the virus.”
Mehta’s submission came a day after the bench had sought a status report from the government on the steps taken to prevent the exodus of labourers from cities to their native places on foot after the imposition of a 21-day nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
The court is hearing two separate pleas that have raised the issue of large-scale migration of daily wagers and labourers after the imposition of the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appearing for the Central government, Mehta told the bench, which was hearing the matter through video conferencing, that so far, rural India is unaffected by coronavirus, and advisory has been issued to states regarding complete prohibition of inter-state migration to contain the spread of the virus.
“I have instructions to state that no one is now on the roads. Anyone who was outside has been taken to the available shelters,” Mehta said, adding, “we are considering providing counseling to address the panic”.
He said that entire country was required to be locked down so that people do not mix and adhere to social distancing.
“We are trying to ensure that no migration is permitted,” he said, adding, “It would be risky for them and for the village populations. So far, rural India is unaffected by coronavirus but there is a possibility of three out of 10 moving from cities to rural areas carrying the virus”.
He also said that there is a resistance from the villagers to those workers who are returning from cities.
Mehta said migrant workers, who were on roads during journey to their native places, have been kept in shelter homes where they are provided with food, nourishments, beds, drinking water and medical aid.
He told the bench that government would soon implement a system where panic of migrant workers would be addressed and they would also be given counselling. The bench, after hearing the submissions, asked the Centre to get trained counsellors and community leaders of all faiths to calm down the migrants, who are kept in shelter homes across the country.
It also asked the government to ensure that adequate drinking water, food, beds and medicines are made available in these shelter homes. (PTI)