Homecoming it shall eventually be. Through a notification on Wednesday last, the Union Home Ministry has allowed inter-State movement of stranded migrant labourers, students, and tourists among others. But the process rests on mutually-agreed terms between two States and they would need to follow strict guidelines: only asymptomatic people can travel; a second assessment of their health to be done on arrival in home state, buses must be sanitised and passengers maintain social distancing etc. Apparently, other than the labourers growing restlessness and that the lockdown will go into another extension, the go-ahead for ghar wapsi comes after many States found it difficult to sustain migrant labourers as their revenue resources are gradually drying up and the Centre is yet to be magnanimous. Sadly, the relief is half-hearted, rather impractical as the movement is solely to be through buses! The demand for Centre to start non-stop special trains is growing so as to spare lakhs of people the long and arduous journey. Imagine citizens from the south having to reach their homes in the north on road. Of course, it is far better than them having to walk thousands of miles as witnessed during lockdown I, but then isn’t it typical of New Delhi by now not to plan ahead, holistically and with a blue print.
Notwithstanding the deafening silence from Rail Bhavan, on starting special trains, States have begun getting their buses ready to ferry the people. Of the expected 8 lakh labourers, Rajasthan has so far started buses to get back 40,000 labourers; Uttar Pradesh is in a tizzy as it expects ghar wapsi (homecoming) of 10-lakh migrants, and is making arrangements; with 10,000 buses Maharashtra will be able to transport only 1.5 lakh migrants; Karnataka is weighing logistic arrangements but joins the chorus for special trains; Bihar, is yet to spell out if it will arrange for the return of 10-lakh people stuck in Haryana, Gujarat, Delhi, UP and Maharashtra by sending vehicles to these States, but offered to take those who reach its borders to quarantine centres in their districts; Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Odisha have already started bringing back students et al. In the midst of all this, New Delhi needs to give a serious thought to running special trains, for its directive to States to ensure free movement of trucks/goods carriers to facilitate supply chain of goods and services may just get clogged in massive traffic jams from the very buses it has allowed. Sooner the better!
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is on tenterhooks. He needs to get himself nominated to the Legislative Council by 27 May to retain his seat as per law, which demands a CM or a minister, who is neither a member of Council nor Assembly, must be elected within 6 months of being sworn in. Uddhav took oath as CM on 28 November last after Shiv Sena broke ties with BJP and formed an alliance with NCP and Congress. With time running out to avoid a constitutional crisis, he had to reach out to Prime Minister Modi as Raj Bhavan was playing ‘mischief’. The Cabinet had on April 9, recommended to Governor Koshyari that Uddhav be nominated to Council, as elections to its nine seats, scheduled for April 24, were postponed by Election Commission due to COVID-19. But with Koshyari taking long to respond, the nagging delay had led to accusations of former partner BJP trying to create political instability in the State. Fortunately, Koshyari has eventually written to ECI asking for guidelines on polls, giving a ray of hope. But the ruling combine must be cautious, for there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip!
No Compromise In J&K
No compromise is a terse response from Jammu & Kashmir administration. On Monday last, the Home department extended the ban on 4G internet services till 11 May. Its reasoning being to curb uploading, downloading and circulation of ‘provocative videos, guard against rumour mongering/fake news, prevent the use of encrypted messaging and VOIP services for infiltration and coordinating terror activities, and defeat the nefarious designs from across the border to propagate terrorism.” It went a step further by telling the Supreme Court ‘The right to access the internet is not a fundamental right’ and thus the type and breadth of access for exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a)…through the medium of internet can be curtailed’. The assertion came on Wednesday last in a case seeking restoration of 4G services on grounds that its lack was causing difficulties with patients, doctors and public ‘remaining in dark about latest information, guidelines, advisories and restrictions related to the COVID-19.” This too was dismissed as ‘misconceived’ as information ‘can be accessed via fixed line high-speed internet’. No signs of Acche Din!
Tripura Crystal Clear
There is no ambiguity in Tripura over the period of lockdown. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has told his people it would continue in some form or the other ‘till a vaccine against Covid-19 is invented.’ The message came after a marathon all-party meeting on Wednesday last. “It’s still a long way to exit lockdown in phased manner. It is impossible to resume inter-state bus, train or air services now. So, lockdown will remain. People have to accept it as part of our lives”, said Deb. At same time, he chose to give them confidence that while it’s a small State, the government has already taken initiatives to revive economy i.e. 50 of 75 industrial units at Bodhjungngar are already functional and work has started in primary sector because that is what will help the State. Additionally, there are sufficient food stocks including “76 days buffer stock of rice, 80 days stock of wheat, 42 days sugar stock, salt for 14 days, 17 days of lentil pulse stocks, 7 days diesel buffer stock, 9 days petrol stocks and 18,490 LPG cylinders….” Will others take a cue?
UP’s Adopted Cows
Holy cow! Uttar Pradesh doesn’t meet its target. The Chief Minister Destitute Cow Participation Scheme got takers but met only half the target. Of 1 lakh abandoned cows in the State, 53,606 got new homes with 26,586 farmers in all 75 districts coming forward to adopt them during the last financial year, 31 March-end. Yogi Adityanath had to start the scheme in August last, after cow shelters started overflowing following the ban on illegal slaughter houses which led to a spike in stray cattle. Worse, these bovines started destroying crops in villages and causing accidents in cities, which triggered public resentment and even protests in some parts. The way out was this scheme which enticed farmers with Rs 900 per month to those who came forward against an affidavit they would ‘look after them properly at home.’ Interestingly, the female bovines were preferred to males and farmers mostly picked heifers, milch or pregnant cows. As a result, male cows ended up in government-run shelters, where already 5-lakh are housed for past year-and-a-half. The government means business as each cattlehead has been ear-tagged before being given for adoption for monitoring. Given away but not forgotten. —INFA