Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, scorched over the migrant crisis last year, today requested the migrants from his state to return home quickly in the backdrop of the raging second wave of Covid. All arrangements will be made for the returning migrants, he said this evening while announcing a series of restrictions across the state to check the spiralling daily cases.
The Chief Minister has asked migrant labourers to return as soon as possible. “The difficulty will increase with delay,” he said, adding, “We will get you checked and will arrange work for you”.
“Finally Nitish babu seems to have learned from his colossal blunder this time but we will wait and see how he gives shape to his promises,” said Manoj Jha of RJD.
Migrants started making their way back to Bihar since earlier this month, as the coronavirus figures started their journey north.
Over the last week, thousands have reached the state from the worst Covid-hit areas — Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.
Most, though, managed the homecoming without undergoing any Covid test. Despite Chief Minister Mr Kumar’s announcement that all facilities for tests have been organised, visuals from Buxar station earlier this week showed people racing to the exit after getting off the train.
Last year when the lockdown was announced by the Centre, Mr Kumar — whose state has the maximum number of migrants — was hugely criticised for making no special effort to bring them home.
As lakhs of people struggled to make their way to their hometown, mostly on foot and many died on the way, the opposition had a field day. For months thereafter, the opposition repeatedly invoked the issue, criticising the Chief Minster for what they called his reluctance to get the migrants back. They have also criticized him for not announcing a substantial package for the migrants.
Many leaders, including some from the BJP and NDA allies, declared that Mr Kumar’s title of “Sushashan Babu” had taken a hit.
In the elections held later in the year, Mr Kumar’s Janata Dal United was relegated to the backseat with 43 seats — down from 72 in 2015 — giving the BJP primacy in the state’s ruling alliance.
Though Mr Kumar’s party had blamed the rebellion of Lok Janashakti Party’s Chirag Paswan and accused the BJP of engineering it for its own gains, many claimed the Chief Minister’s treatment of the migrants was partly to blame.
Though the Centre had spent Rs 8,500 crore under various schemes, its controversial decisions — like stopping the special trains in March last year and refusal to pay for the migrants’ train journey home – had generated a lot of anger among the voters.