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Take steps to bring back migrants & help them resume work — Covid-19 panel tells Modi govt

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Migrant workers go home on NH2 highway | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Migrant workers go home in packed buses on the NH2 highway (representational image) | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint


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New Delhi: An empowered panel of secretaries has recommended to the Modi government to give incentives and initiate measures to allow migrant labourers to return from their native places or wherever they are stranded to metropolitan cities, where they were working, so that they can earn their livelihood during the second phase of the lockdown that starts Wednesday, ThePrint has learnt.

This is one of the several suggestions given by the panel that the government would have in mind while preparing the detailed guidelines that will be issued Wednesday — specifying the list of sectors where certain relaxations could be given after 20 April for economic activities to resume.

The Union cabinet will meet Wednesday evening to decide on some of the policy initiatives to address the plight of labourers and daily wagers.

This panel that has recommended to the government is one of the 11 empowered committee of secretaries constituted to strategise on economic and welfare measures during the Covid-19 lockdown. These 11 committees were set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.


Also read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy


Farm activities, small industries could resume

Government sources told ThePrint Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba will interact with all the state chief secretaries, home secretaries and health secretaries Wednesday morning to get their feedback about the ground situation before finalising the guidelines.

“The states will be asked about their views on what all industries can be allowed to open and in what form. There is a general feeling that in rural pockets farm-related activities should be opened up because of the rabi harvest season,” said one of the sources.

Besides, certain small industries — both in the organised and unorganised sectors — could be opened, allowing, among others, the daily wagers to earn their livelihood.

“There is some thought to open up e-commerce businesses and taxi aggregator services. But a final call will be taken only after the cabinet secretary’s meeting with the (states’) chief secretaries,” the source added. 

The source said in his interaction with the chief secretaries, Gauba will ask the states and union territories to draw up a list of districts where economic concessions can be given after 20 April.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday said that until 20 April, all districts and localities in the country will be closely monitored to see how strictly they are implementing the lockdown norms.

States, which will not let Covid-19 hotspots increase, could be allowed to resume some important activities, but with certain conditions, the PM said earlier in the day.

Migrant workers getting restless due to lack of income

Another government source said there is a growing concern in the top echelons of the government that if livelihood issues of the poor and migrant workers, who are dependent on their daily earnings, are not resolved, then it could escalate into a law and order problem.

“What happened in Mumbai today (Tuesday) where 1,000 daily wage earners came out and squatted on roads or what happened in Surat and Punjab last week are examples. We are getting feelers from one state after another that migrant workers and daily wagers are getting restless in the absence of any source of income,” the source said.

Thousands of migrant workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and other states, gathered in large numbers at a bus stand in Mumbai Tuesday afternoon, demanding they be sent back to their native places.

A senior official in the Punjab government, who did not want to be named, said the state has recommended to the Centre that farm activities should be permitted otherwise the rabi produce would go waste.  

States like Punjab and Delhi have allowed agricultural markets to remain open during certain specified time of the day.

Govt drawing up list of activities to be allowed

The panel has also recommended to the government a list of activities that could be allowed in green zones (districts where no Covid-19 cases have been reported) and amber zones (districts where no fresh cases have been reported in the last 14 days).

Currently, of the total 718 districts across the country, Covid-19 cases have been reported in about 370 districts, according to the health ministry data.

There are another 25 districts where no cases have been reported in the last 14 days.


Also read: Why a total lockdown of India after 14 April will be counter-productive


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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