With tens of thousands of migrant workers walking down to their homes far way amid the coronavirus lockdown, the government on Saturday directed states and union territories to immediately set up relief camps for them and carry out health check-ups.
Scenes of migrant workers walking endlessly and many trying to cram into buses to reach their destination were common in several parts of the country as the countrywide lockdown entered the fourth day.
With lakhs of these workers stranded on highways and inter-state bus terminus, the government stepped in and asked states and union territories to immediately set up relief camps for migrant workers and others who are returning to their home states or trying to do so during the nationwide lockdown period.
Home Minister Amit Shah said the central government has committed all support to migrant workers during the 21-day lockdown announced to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centre also asked state governments and union territory administrations to utilise state disaster response funds, to which Rs 29,000 crore has been allocated for the next fiscal, for providing food and shelter to migrant workers hit by the lockdown.
Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Punya Salila Srivastava said the government has also asked the states and union territories to set up camps for migrant workers fleeing cities and carry out their health check-ups.
With their livelihoods coming to a halt after imposition of the countrywide lockdown, thousands of daily wage workers and labourers, including women and children, with their bags on their heads and backs and many also wearing protective masks waited in long queues to board buses at the Anand Vihar Interstate Bus Terminal in Delhi.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced that it has arranged 1,000 buses to ferry migrant labourers stranded in the border districts.
During the day, several cases of violation of lockdown norms were reported.
Police fired in the air in Assam's Bongaigaon district to disperse a mob at a market after it attacked the security personnel when asked to abide by the lockdown order.
In Cachar district, an Assam Industrial Security Force constable died, after which his wife claimed he was lynched by a mob while enforcing a lockdown at a market, but police said his death was probably due to high blood pressure
In Delhi, 82 cases were registered and 3,485 people detained for violating government orders during the lockdown.
Gujarat Police chief Shivanand Jha said over 1,000 FIRs were registered against 1,595 people since Friday.
The district administration in Rajasthan's Jhunjhunu came out with a unique way of engaging those flouting lockdown orders and has decided to send such violators to the quarantine wards to take care of coronavirus patients.
Nawalgarh SDM Murari Lal Sharma also urged people to click photographs of those loitering on roads without any reason and send the pictures to the district authorities.
Kerala Police deployed drones at various places to monitor unlawful assembly of people and book those violating the curfew norms.
The law enforcers took the technical route after finding that a large number of people tend to come out without any valid reason, despite repeated warnings and restriction.
A migrant woman from Bihar, working in Kasargod in Kerala, gave birth in an ambulance after the vehicle was not allowed by police to cross the border road to Mangaluru to reach her hospital.
Both the mother and baby are doing fine, authorities said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the action of Karnataka police in blocking the key state highway ferrying essential commodities to the state and urged him to immediately intervene in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Congress held the government responsible for the plight of migrant workers with Rahul Gandhi demanding that it take concrete steps so that the situation 'does not become a major tragedy'.
He also appealed to Congress workers to help such migrants by offering them food and shelter.
Sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said when the government can send planes to bring back Indians from abroad, why cannot it provide transport to send the labourers home.
The Congress constituted a task force to intensify efforts of party-ruled states to deal with the situation due to COVID-19 and help mitigate the sufferings of people.
The task force includes P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Tamradhwaj Sahu and M Veerappa Moily.
A day after SpiceJet said it is ready to operate some flights to alleviate the suffering of migrant workers, GoAir on Saturday evinced interest in flying stranded workers in various states to the airports closer to their homes.
With the exodus of people posing health risks, apex child rights body NCPCR urged migrant labourers to stay put wherever they are and make decision in the best interest of their children.
It also advised state governments to accommodate children living on streets in school buildings to ensure that they are protected from coronavirus.