Patna: Fearing community spread of the novel coronavirus, Bihar government on Tuesday declared a blanket ban on entry of outsiders during the ongoing lockdown.
After the sudden announcement of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, more than two lakh migrant workers have returned to Bihar in the past five days--thousands by trains last week, and many by walking for 200-500 km for days, while some on motorcycles and rickshaws. Most of them reached their native villages without undergoing any medical screening.
The state Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar, after attending the meeting of the crisis management group here, said no one will be allowed to enter Bihar. He admitted that a large number of people are stranded, including on the Nepal border, but they will not be given permission to cross the border.
He further said that all those returning to Bihar from outside will be allowed to stay at relief centres at the border of the state. “We have to enforce complete lockdown strictly. If required, drones will be used for monitoring.”
Kumar said instructions have been given to seal the interstate borders and international border with Bihar.
Meanwhile, sources at the police headquarters confirmed that Bihar’s border with Nepal, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand have been sealed. Police deployed at the barricades have been instructed not to allow entry of anyone.
According to him, as per official record, 1.25 lakh people from across the country and abroad have arrived in Bihar in the past 21 days. The state disaster management department has started tracking them and plans to arrange 14-day quarantine. This is a step to minimise the chance of community spread of coronavirus via those coming from outside.
In the last 48 hours, thousands of migrant workers, mainly from Delhi, have returned to the state. However, most of them are struggling to reach their villages due to the lack of transportation arrangements.
Till date, Bihar has reported 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including one death. Dr. Pradeep Das, director of Patna-based Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI), where COVID-19 tests are being conducted in Bihar, confirmed the same.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has directed officials to carry out screening and isolation exercises for migrant workers returning to the state and step up efforts to trace suspects from among those who have reached their villages without screening in the last one week. “Screening of suspected cases who may have unknowingly come in contact with people testing positive is necessary for the success of government’s efforts to contain the pandemic,” he said.
Youth Beaten to Death
Meanwhile, a youth was beaten to death in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district, allegedly for informing the local medical helpline officials about the arrival of two migrant labourers--suspected to have been infected with the coronavirus--and requesting their medical check up.
Bablu Kumar, 20, a resident of Madhaul village under Runnisaidpur block, was thrashed outside his house by a few villagers who were angry because he informed the local medical helpline.
“My brother was forcibly caught by them, badly beaten till he fell unconscious and died due to internal injuries on late Sunday evening. We rushed him to the local government-run hospital where doctors informed us that he was very critical and about to breathe his last any moment. After that we took him to Shrikrishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur, where he was declared ‘brought dead’,” said Bablu’s brother Guddu Kumar Singh.
Bablu’s father Vinod Singh said, “His duty as a citizen cost him his life.”
According to Guddu, two migrant labourers had arrived on March 20 or 21 from Maharashtra. After that, Bablu reportedly informed the local medical helpline and as a result, a team of the health department examined both of them on March 24. But it angered them and their family.
Runni Saidpur police station house officer in-charge said that the two accused, Sudhir Mahto and Munna Mahto, were arrested after an FIR was lodged against six people for murder on the basis of statement of victim’s brother. He refuted the reports of tension in the village following this incident.
Vikas Kumar, officer in-charge of Ahiyapur police station in Muzaffarpur, said that the body was sent for postmodern on Sunday but the report is awaited.
Reports of violent clashes and disputes in several villages across Bihar in the last five days have emerged. In several villages, people stopped the entry of migrant labourers and asked them to get a medical examination first.
In another incident, a team of the administration was attacked in Dayali Bigha village in Jehanabad district on Monday when the team requested villagers to quarantine those who had arrived from Delhi. In the attack, vehicles of the police and the BDO were damaged, but officials escaped unhurt.