Taking note of large-scale movement of migrant workers from cities to their native places on foot after the coronavirus lockdown, the Supreme Court on Monday said fear and panic is a “bigger problem than the virus”, and sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken to prevent the exodus.
The SC observation came even as the Central government issued orders to the States and Union Territories to make it a personal responsibility of District Magistrates to arrange food and shelter for stranded workers waiting to reach their native places after the imposition of the 21-day lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Joint Secretary in the Union home ministry Punya Salila Srivastava said the ministry has already issued orders on Sunday asking landlords to not seek a month’s rent from migrant workers and also to not ask for vacating their property, while the Maharashtra government announced setting up of the 262 relief camps for migrant labourers where they will be provided food and shelter.
The nationwide lockdown sparked the exodus of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers who undertook long journeys from major urban cities on foot to their native places in last five days, threatening to overturn the benefits of the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has claimed over 34,500 lives globally and infected over 7.27 lakh.
Hearing two separate PILs which sought relief, including food, water, medicines and proper medical facilities, for thousands of migrant workers who are rendered homeless and jobless due to the lockdown, a bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao said said before passing any direction, it would like to wait for the status report from the centre.
Insisting that Covid-19 is still in the local transmission stage in India, the Health Ministry on Monday said it took 12 days for cases of infection to rise from 100 to 1,000 in the country and the rate of increase has been slower than some of the developed nations. The ministry, however, in its Standard Operating Procedure issued on Sunday for transporting a Covid-19 case, had mentioned the current phase of the pandemic as “local transmission and limited community transmission”.
“This SOP is applicable to current phase of COVID-19 pandemic in India (local transmission and limited community transmission), wherein as per plan of action, all suspect cases are admitted to isolation facilities. These procedures are meant to guide and be used for training ambulance drivers and technicians in transporting COVID-19 patients,” it read.