NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its new move has allowed the migrant workers and laborers to return to their places of work in cities, given they do not show any symptoms of coronavirus. Though migrants will be allowed to return to their work places within cities, which are non-containment zones, state borders will remain closed for any movement.

The government’s decision comes in the wake of thousands of workers being stranded across the country, along state borders, since the national lockdown was imposed on 25th March.The ministry added that, “there shall be no movement of labor outside the state or union territory where they (labors) are currently located.”

In a fresh directive issued, the workers employed in industry, agriculture, construction and other sectors who have moved from their place of work to relief and shelter camps run by the central and state governments, could engage in “industrial, manufacturing, construction, farming and MNREGA works”.

The movement of migrant workers and labors is subject to strict screening and checks. Labors who are housed in relief camps will first have to register with local authorities and skill mapping will also be carried out on the basis of their suitability for jobs.

The government had first imposed a nationwide lockdown for 21 days till 14 April, and then extended it to 3 May in the wake of rising number of covid-19 cases in the country.

On 15 April, the government had said “these activities will be operationalised based on strict compliance to existing lockdown guidelines,” adding that states need to ensure that all precautions with regard to social distancing were followed.

Meanwhile, various PILs have been filed in the Supreme Court urging it to direct the Centre to allow migrant workers to return to their hometowns and villages after testing them for COVID-19 and for the authorities to provide for their safe travel back home. One such petition has been filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan and drawn by advocates Neha Rathi and Jatin Bhardwaj.

Migrant workers who are stranded away from their homes are the worst affected set of people at such a time of health crisis.

The petition prays that the distressed migrant workers should be allowed to return home now, in light of the extension of the nation-wide lockdown until May 3. The petitioner has stated that the present condition of the workers completely violates the fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The PIL further suggests that necessary tests be conducted and that those workers who test negative for the novel coronavirus should be allowed to return home, rather than keeping them forcefully in shelter homes, away from their own families and against their wishes. The authorities, in fact, should arrange for the safe travel for these migrant workers to their homes, the PIL adds.

The plea by activist Jagdeep S Chhokar and advocate Gaurav Jain also seek a direction to the Centre to allow safe travel and transportation for such workers