Around two lakh migrants from Uttarakhand have registered to return home. It is reported that the state expects as many as twenty thousand of them to be corona positive, with five thousand requiring hospitalisation and five hundred needing to be put on ventilator support. It is good that the state government is looking ahead to the possible scenarios and, hopefully, making adequate preparations. Overall, however, this is not a good situation for a state that has been relatively free of the virus and, thus far, has had only one fatality. Otherwise, too, the statistics have been good, with the lockdown clearly having had the necessary impact.
Having badgered the state government to bring back the migrants stuck in various parts of the country, the Congress is now raising the issue of alleged negligence in the quarantine arrangements. It wants that the management and weeding out of possible positive cases should be done at every level and not just left to the local gram pradhans. This is a fair concern and there can be no alternative to the strictest protocols. Thus far, it has been noted that the slightest pressure on the arrangements has led to unacceptable breakdowns. It has been noticed, for instance, that the buses transporting people to the hill districts are being sent full instead of maintaining adequate space between passengers. This is clearly failure of command and control. Such dangerous laxity when the numbers have increased manifold can only prove catastrophic.
Claims have also been made by various ministers about the steps contemplated to provide employment to the migrants. This is little more than wishful thinking. If Uttarakhand had the capacity, the migration would not have happened in the first place! As is already being seen, it will not be very long before most migrants head back to their former places of employment. It would be better for all if they stay put in the first place, except those who are absolutely in dire straits. It has largely been the uncertainty on when the lockdown would end and the economy rebooted that has triggered the panic among the working class. Now that the fog is clearing somewhat on this issue, the migrants should feel more optimistic about their future.
As the state government refines its strategy for the future, it will need to ramp up its administrative machinery. Even the best policies fail if these are not based on the ground reality, or fail to be implemented effectively and intelligently.