Patna: A sense of anger has been growing among thousands of migrant workers in government-run quarantine centres in Bihar with the occupants alleging neglect, ill treatment and mismanagement by authorities. Workers who have returned to their home state have complained of poor quality food, dirty toilets and a lack of basic amenities like proper sanitation facilities.
Nearly 400 migrant workers at a quarantine centre in Ladania block in Madhubani district created a ruckus and ransacked the centre on Friday afternoon. They alleged that they were served stale rice by local authorities. The group roughed up the Block Development Officer after he tried to pacify them when informed about their protest.
According to the district police, the workers attacked the BDO who managed to escape by locking himself inside a room. The angry migrant workers damaged furniture and other items.
“We are never served food on time and it is of poor quality, the stale rice being an example. There is a lack of adequate toilets and the ones that are there are very dirty. There is no hygiene and an absence of basic amenities,” said Vikas Kumar, one of the protesting migrant workers.
This incident is not an isolated one. There are reports of over a dozen such incidents where angry migrant workers in quarantine have continued to create a ruckus, stage protests and even turned violent at some places. A quarantine centre was damaged, the head of a village was attacked and a doctor was taken hostage to block a National Highway over the last 24 hours in the state.
Last night, (May 14) about 17 migrant workers at a quarantine centre in Muzaffarpur district, blocked the NH-57 which connects Muzaffarpur to Darbhanga near Maithi village for over two hours, alleging that they were given poor quality food. They told police that they were forced to leave the quarantine centre as a result and that they had been going hungry.
More than 100 migrant workers at a quarantine centre in Raniganj in Araria district on Friday staged a protest on the road for nearly two and half hours demanding proper food, soap to bathe with and masks. They have alleged that authorities have been ignoring them after they were quarantined. It is the second consecutive day that they have staged a protest. They had been up in arms on Thursday night as well, alleging that the cooked vegetables and pulses served to them were stale.
In a similar incident from a quarantine centre in Araria district on Thursday, angry migrant workers attacked the local mukhiya (village body head) and held a doctor and a nurse hostage at another quarantine centre.
There are also reports of migrant workers in quarantine fleeing from quarantine centres due to the poor food and a lack of basic facilities.
This is contrary to repeated claims by top officials in Bihar and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s directives to provide for facilities at quarantine centres for migrant workers who have returned from other states.
As of today, quarantine centres have been created at block level in all 38 districts of the state.
Information and Public Relation Department secretary, Anupam Kumar, said the state government has set up more than 4,700 quarantine centres. He said that more quarantine centres will be set up in view of the increasing number of migrant workers arriving in the state on a daily basis. At present, more than 2.25 lakh migrant workers are staying in the quarantine centres. “It is a big challenge to manage them,” he said.
Kumar said that till Friday, more than 2.50 lakh migrant workers have arrived in the Shramik Special Trains to Bihar. About 32 special trains carrying nearly 47,000 migrant workers will arrive in Bihar on Friday. He added that more than 200 such trains are expected to arrive with migrant workers in the next week.
Health Department secretary, Sanjay Kumar, said that the minors coming from other states with their parents were allowed home quarantine after proper screening by medical teams.
As of Friday, Bihar had 1,005 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with seven deaths reported. So far, the state has tested more than 43,000 samples and there are seven COVID-19 testing facilities in the state.
According to officials, 352 out of more than 2.25 lakh migrant workers who had arrived in Bihar from other states over the past twelve days had tested positive for COVID-19.