Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has written a strongly-worded letter to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the exodus of tens of thousands of migrant workers from the national capital Delhi over the weekend that forced the Centre to ask bordering states to seal their borders and look after the migrants.
The missive was sent after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah expressed grave concerns over exposing the migrants to health hazards during the lockdown.
A home ministry official said the letter was sent on Sunday evening after Shah chaired a high-level meeting and called up Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to deliver explicit instructions that no migrant movement should be allowed. The exodus, Shah told them, defeated the very purpose of the national lockdown.
It is learnt that PM Modi and Shah had spoken to Delhi chief minister Kejriwal earlier.
Upset at the Delhi Government allowing the use of DTC buses to cart migrants to the UP border, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also told the Delhi chief secretary to place two senior IAS officers under suspension for lapses in enforcing the lockdown.
The exodus of migrants had forced the Centre to order states to quarantine all the migrants who had exited Delhi in state-run facilities for 14 days before they are allowed to go home.
“It is going to be a massive exercise… was completely avoidable,” a second home ministry official said, adding that there was concern within the government that the country may have to pay dearly for the lockdown violation.
The official said Anil Baijal’s missive to Arvind Kejriwal, which echoes this sentiment, conveys the Centre’s displeasure at the Delhi government’s inability to provide basic facilities and reassurance to the migrant workers that their needs would be taken care of.
“It also makes the point that the Delhi government had a free hand to implement the lockdown and had all the powers that it needed,” the official said. The pointed reference to the Kejriwal government’s powers is seen to allude to a long-standing tug-of-war between the central and Delhi government over the distribution of powers to run the affairs in the national capital.
For the future, the second home ministry official said, Lt Governor Anil Baijal had asked the Delhi government to persuade migrant workers in a humane manner to stay put or move to government-run shelter homes where the state would make all basic facilities available.
Baijal is also learnt to have reiterated the Centre’s instructions that require states and union territories to ensure that employers pay the workers their dues without any deductions on account of the lockdown and the consequent loss of workdays.
Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev has already ordered the Delhi Transport Corporation, which runs a skeletal bus service, to make sure that it only ferries government employees on essential duty and other people carrying valid passes or identification cards.