Migrants have been travelling to their native places since the nationwide lockdown was imposed. Some are travelling by foot, some by truck, some by bikes and some by hired cars and own cars. In May during the lockdown, which was to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the government also began arranging trains called Shramik Special Trains and buses for the migrants.
Many migrants are travelling because they can’t cope up with the financial constraints and some migrants want to spend this lockdown period with family. I also travelled from Mumbai to Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur to stay with my parents. This visit has revealed loopholes in the execution of planning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When the government observed that migrant workers are desperate to reach their native places, the central government issued some guidelines. Such as, the traveller needs to have an E-pass to travel from one state to another- if travelling by own or hired vehicles. The migrants who are travelling should go through thermal screening.
Any migrant who has reached his/her native place should be kept in a quarantine centre for 14 or 21 days, depending upon the condition of the traveller. The government also has given home quarantine option but on a condition that the person should not involve in family and friends gathering for the specified time.
These guidelines were issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The government’s planning is quite good, but it’s lacking in execution. That is the reason, as far as Sultanpur district is concerned, it has crossed 100 mark in COVID-19 positive cases. Why I am sure that the state government is lacking in execution of the planning to prevent the increase of the coronavirus positive cases because I have experienced the lacking while travelling from Mumbai to Sultanpur.
I left Mumbai on 27 May 2020 evening by a hired car. I was travelling without worries because I am having a press card. According to the guidelines, media persons are allowed to travel. However, we are not exempted from thermal screening because the coronavirus does not see the profession. That is why I was expecting people to be deployed on the road to screen the travellers. However, nothing of such thing I saw while exiting Mumbai, Maharashtra, entering Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Not even while entering Sultanpur city.
However, I did not lose hope in the government, in this case, and thought that I would be going through thermal screening while entering in my native village called Dehali Mubarakpur. But, I was surprised to know that nobody is caring if any person who is travelling from a COVID-19 hotspot, Mumbai, to the village where not even a single COVID-19 case is reported so far could be a COVID-19 carrier.
The village Pardhan was not worried but I was. That is why I enquired and found that someone in my village is listing down names and contact details for thermal screening. I went there and listed my details. I was asked that I would receive a call or someone would come to my house for thermal screening. However, 16 days passed but I am yet to receive any call. Moreover, nobody came to my house for the same.
Being a journalist, I dig more and found that very few of those migrants who travelled by own or hired vehicles such as truck, tempo, car and bike go through thermal screening. Which means hundreds of people travelled from COVID-19 red zone city, Mumbai, entered their houses without thermal screening and spending time in quarantine centre. When I asked a person who travelled from Mumbai’s Govandi slum to Dehali Mubarakpur if he spent specified time in quarantine centre, he replied, “I was home quarantined for 14 days.”
However, people have misunderstood ‘home quarantine’ meaning. It means you are locked in a room for 14 days and not involving in family and friends gatherings. You are even having meals in the closed room. The fact that nobody in my village is following the home quarantine rules.
When asked if there is any quarantine centre, I was told that a school was turned into a quarantine centre. However, no facilities such as washroom, regular electricity, fans, sanitiser, soap and masks were provided. It is really tough for people to stay in such a quarantine centre without regular electricity during the summer.
This situation is the same in many villages in Sultanpur. On one hand, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath bragging about his pseudo achievements in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, many villages where migrants visiting from the red zones are having no or without facility quarantine centre. This could be disastrous if COVID-19 cases will start surging because Sultanpur has no COVID-19 hospital.