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Seal borders, stop migrant exodus, give support, states told

NEW DELHI: A day after thousands of migrant workers thronged Delhi’s Anand Vihar inter-state bus terminal in the hope of catching a ride to their native places, the Centre on Sunday ordered all district and state borders be sealed effectively and ordered 14-day quarantine for all those who violated the shutdown which was imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The Centre also cracked the whip on sloppy Delhi government officers by suspending two and initiating disciplinary action against two others. The officers suspended were Additional Chief Secretary (Transport) and Principal Secretary (Finance), while Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and SDM Seelampur were issued notice. The action was based on finding that they prima-facie failed to implement the lockdown orders. According to a home ministry order, District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police will be “personally responsible” for implementation of these directions, issued under the Disaster Management Act.

The Union home ministry asked landlords of migrant workers not to take a month’s rent from the tenants. MHA also warned landlords against forcing migrant workers and students to vacate premises. In another advisory, the MHA asked states to ensure timely payment of wages to workers without any cut. “We have asked States to make arrangements for shelters so that the migrant workers who have violated the lockdown and travelled could be put in quarantine for 14 days at their destinations,” said Joint Secretary in MHA Punya Salila Srivastava.

Despite the Union government’s directives, migrants again attempted to leave from the Anand Vihar bus terminus but were blocked by police. “I came here in the morning and have been waiting for police to let us go ahead,” said Joginder Singh, 40, a fruit merchant who came to the terminus with his family in the morning to catch a bus for his hometown Moradabad. “If police open the borders, we can walk all the way to Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, which is some 100 km away. Due to this lockdown, my work got affected. For the past one week, I have nothing to do. I live in a rented accommodation and it will become very difficult for us to give rent and bear us daily expenses. We can somehow manage these things in Moradabad,” Singh said.

Many others were seen trying to walk on the railway tracks at Anand Vihar to reach their villages in Uttar Pradesh. During a video conference with chief secretaries and DGPs, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla asked them to ensure there is no movement of people across cities or on highways as the lockdown continues.

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