Panic triggered by ‘fake news’ on lockdown responsible for migrants’ walk home, Centre tells Parliament

Migrants walk to reach home. (File)

The central government has blamed ‘fake news’ for the large-scale migration crisis during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. It also said that the global experience with Covid-19 and its highly infectious nature was the reason behind the decision to impose a nationwide lockdown on March 24 at a notice of four hours.

The government shared the information in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy had asked why migrant labourers had to walk miles to reach their homes.

In response to the question, MoS Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said, “The migration of large number of migrant workers was triggered by panic created by fake news regarding duration of lockdown, and people, especially migrant labourers, were worried about adequate supply of basic necessities like food, drinking water, health services and shelter.”

He said that the government was aware about this, and took all necessary measures to ensure that no citizen should be deprived of basic amenities of food, drinking water, medical facilities etc.

The second question was asked by Congress MP Manish Tewari. He had asked why the government had to resort to a nationwide lockdown at a notice of just four hours.

“Soon after the outbreak of novel coronavirus on 7th January, 2020, several measures like progressive tightening of international travel, issuing advisories for members of the public, setting up quarantine facilities etc. were taken by the Central Government to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Rai said in a written reply.

Rai said that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as pandemic on March 11. Experts, he said, recommended that effective measures for social distancing should be taken to contain the spread of the virus.

From March 16 to 23, most of the state governments/UTs resorted to a partial or full lockdown based upon their assessment of the situation, he stated.

“Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease. Any mass movement of people would have spread the disease very fast amongst people in all parts of the country. Taking into consideration the above facts, the global experience and the need for consistency in the approach and implementation of various containment measures across the country, a nationwide lockdown was announced on 24th March, 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country,” he said.

The Modi government had on March 24 announced a nationwide lockdown. There was an exodus of a large number of migrant workers to their native places from different parts of the country during the lockdown. The lockdown restrictions were eased from late May.

Earlier on Monday, Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar told the Lok Sabha that the government does not have data on the number of migrants who died or were injured while returning to their native places due to the lockdown.

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