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Opinion

Returning home finally | HT Editorial – Editorials

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On Wednesday, the 36th day of the lockout, the Interior Ministry issued a series of guidelines to allow the movement of migrant workers, students, tourists, pilgrims and other stranded in different states to their home states. The government order stipulates that this can happen if there is a mutual agreement between the sending and receiving states; only those who show no symptoms after the exam will be able to move; movement can only occur on the highway, on buses, while maintaining social distancing protocols; And those who return will be in home or institutional quarantine, with periodic medical check-ups.

The government order is welcome, albeit a long time ago. In the past five weeks, India has witnessed an impending humanitarian crisis. Migrant workers sought to return to their homes from the time the closure was announced on March 24. Thousands walked or cycled home hundreds of miles away. Facing a severe cash and food shortage, they suffered acute suffering. State governments intervened and organized refuge camps, but this turned out to be inadequate. An emerging concern for law and order also emerged, as restless and angry immigrants clashed with security personnel in cities like Surat, demanding that they be allowed to return to their homes. The dilemma of the central government was understandable: it was apprehensive that the massive return of migrants could lead to the spread of the disease. But humanitarian and public order concerns, and pressure from the ground, seem to have finally titled the decision.

The challenge is now in implementation. Reports suggest that there are 10 million migrants registered with different state governments who want to return home. Organizing transportation will be a tremendous logistical challenge. The most important variable is to maintain social distancing protocols during the trip. Since migrants will not be tested, but will only be examined, and many patients with coronavirus disease are asymptomatic, there is a possibility that people with the disease are traveling. This makes required clearance, and then strict quarantine, and effective monitoring once they reach their destination, essential. Addressing the demands of migrants was important given the unfolding human tragedy. But India cannot afford to see the spread of the disease in the rural interior, where the health infrastructure is very weak. Achieving this correct balance will be essential in the coming weeks.

Hindustan Times

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