Bengaluru, April 1 (IANS) Enforcing the 21-day lockdown strictly for containing coronavirus spread, Karnataka sheltered hundreds of workers, including daily wagers and construction labourers in relief camps across the state to prevent reverse migration, an official said on Wednesday.

“We have halted intra-state and inter-state movement of the workers by camping them in community and wedding halls in cities across the state, with food and care,” the official told IANS.

The 3-week lockdown since March 25 at a short notice forced the migrant labour, including their women and children to rush back to their home towns or villages in private vehicles, tractors or even on foot as bus and train services were also stopped.

“With the help of local police, we have persuaded the reluctant migrant labour to stay in the relief camps for another two weeks, as lockdown is in force to protect them from the virus and no public transport to ferry them,” the state home department official noted.

A partial shutdown in 9 districts, including Bengaluru Urban and Rural since March 14 and a complete shutdown since March 21 across the southern state forced hundreds of migrant labour leave cities to neighbouring states by any transport mode, as markets and factories closed and construction activity came to a grinding halt.

“The nationwide lockdown along with the suspension of buses and trains on March 25 panicked the remaining workforce as they were desperate to go back to their native place because they could not afford to stay put in cities for 3 weeks without work and money,” recalled the official regrettably.

Karnataka shares border with 6 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.

Admitting that the sudden lockdown with no transport caused untold hardship to the migrant labour, the officials said on the condition of anonymity that there was a delay in setting up the relief camps from day one (March 25), which forced them to defy the curfew and hit the state and national highways on cycles, two-wheelers, tractors and tempos.

“The Union Home Ministry’s direction to the state government on Sunday (March 29) to enforce the shutdown strictly, forced us to seal the intra-state and inter-state borders and shift the migrant labour to the relief camps, providing them food, water and medicines,” asserted the official.

In India’s tech hub, Bengaluru, which has the maximum migrant labour in the state, about 100 relief camps were opened since Monday in community and marriage halls to shelter them.

“With the help of the civic body (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), non-government organisations (NGOs) and scores of voluntary agencies, food, drinking water, beddings and additional washrooms have been arranged for taking care of the migrant labour,” the official noted.

Bengaluru police commissioner Bhaskar Rao deployed hundreds of police personnel to shift the migrant labour stranded on the city outskirts, near markets, factories and at construction sites to the relief camps and guard them from venturing out.

“As all public events and marriage functions have been stopped, the state government booked the vacant community and wedding halls, with the cooperation of their owners to shelter the migrant labour,” said the official.

Similar relief camps were set up in cities and towns bordering the neighbouring states by the district authorities for the migrant labour.

“The relief camps helped us to stop the migrant labour from crossing the border into the states they hail from and were eager to go back, although there are many like them from Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh,” the official added.

(Fakir Balaji can be reached at [email protected])




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