The Uttar Pradesh government has completed the task of bringing back stranded and jobless migrant workers from various places like Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, chief minister Yogi Adityanath said today.
“The whole country is grateful [for the way in which] decisions were taken by the Prime Minister during the global pandemic, and for the systematic way in which the program to bring back 35.92 lakh migrants to Uttar Pradesh via Shramik Express trains was completed,” Yogi Adityanath said in a video conference attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The state was quick to evacuate its workers from COVID-19 hotspots, while others like Assam and West Bengal are still in the process of bringing back stranded migrant workers from states like Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Adityanath also said that 85% of those who returned to the state have completed their mandatory Coronavirus quarantine, and that only around 1,000 (or 15%) of the currently active COVID-19 cases are from such returning workers. UP currently has around 6,500 active cases.
A total of 27.75 lakh returning migrant workers have completed the Coronavirus quarantine program so far, while another 4.71 lakh are still in house quarantine, the chief minister said, implying that around 85% of the returned migrants have completed quarantine and been allowed to go out.
The numbers indicate a surprisingly positive outcome and an extremely low infection rate for people who returned to the state as part of the massive evacuation program carried out jointly by state governments and the Indian Railways.
Assuming that the contribution of migrant workers to the state’s Coronavirus tally has remained largely constant throughout the last two months, they likely accounted for 15% of the 18,000 or so new cases reported during the period — or about 2,700 cases.
This means that out of the 27.75 lakh (2.78 million) migrant workers who completed quarantine, less than 1 out of every 1000 tested positive for the virus and the others have successfully completed the quarantine program without incident.
Such a low level of infection rate among migrant workers — less than 0.1% — is a far cry from the estimates provided by various experts and observers.
According to media reports, even the central government’s top lawyer had told the Supreme Court on April 1 that as many as 30% of people returning from the big cities to states like UP and Bihar could be infected with the virus.
UP’s data also flies in the face of the findings of a survey by Indian Council of Medical Research late last month that reportedly found that the proportion of those showing Coronavirus antibodies — a sign of previous infection — ranged between 15% and 30% in various ‘containment areas’ of COVID-19 hotspots like Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Adityanath also released data compiled by the state government on the nearly 36 lakh (3.6 million) people who have returned to the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
Out of this, around 30.5 lakh are adults, and within this adult population, 81.23% (24.75 lakh) comprised unskilled, manual laborers working in agricultural and construction fields.
Another 11.87% (3.61 lakh) are skilled and semi-skilled workers from the service sector, such as security guards, plumbers, salesmen, courier delivery workers and so on. Another 2% (62,800) are tailoring workers.
Out of the remaining 5% or so, 3% (92,000) were employed in various industrial units.
Close to 1.5% (45,000) were employed as drivers, while 10,700 were working in various crafts (hastkala), the chief minister said.
The data was collected partly as part of an effort to attract big industrial units to set up shop in Uttar Pradesh in order to provide employment to these people closer to home and give a fillip to the state’s development.
Uttar Pradesh is India’s largest supplier of workers and received nearly 40% of all migrant worker special trains run by the Indian Railways in May during the peak of the evacuation program.
The state is eager to attract big manufacturing companies such as Samsung to set up or expand operations and has offered very liberal terms for setting up their infrastructure.
Most industrial units in India are established in western Indian states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as southern Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Out of the 40.5 lakh adults who have returned to UP from various states so far, 15 lakh have already been given work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Yogi Adityanath added.