File photo of Mukul Sangma

Leader of Opposition in Meghalaya Assembly, Mukul Sangma, on April 18 asked the state government to bring back stranded citizens of Meghalaya, who are trapped in different parts of the country following the nationwide lockdown to stem COVID-19.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

In a letter to Chief Secretary MS Rao, Sangma said that there are many distress calls coming to relatives, civil society organizations and the elected representatives from the stranded citizens of the state.

“A comprehensive plan for bringing back the stranded students and migrant workers should be prepared immediately and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs for smooth co-ordination with the counterpart states,” he said.

“This plan include advance and immediate action to be taken for identifying and creation of dedicated accommodation in every district to house the stranded students and migrant workers upon arrival into their respective districts,” Sangma added.

In his letter, the former chief minister advised the government to have a dedicated train service to evacuate stranded citizens from respective states till the nearest train station/rail head including Mendipathar railway station in North Garo Hills district, with proper food arrangement and stringent social and physical distancing norms during the time of travel.

“… the unavoidable and foreseeable development after the nationwide lockdown measures are withdrawn; the expected rush to return by the stranded students/migrant workers to respective states of origin is likely to expose people to other possible asymptomatic COVID-19 infected people should they travel in common overcrowded trains,” he stated.

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“This should be supported by proper arrangement of road transportation from the respective place of their present stay into the designated train station and from the final destination train station to the dedicated place of accommodation arranged in the respective districts,” he said.

Upon arrival into the respective districts, he said the frontlines team should compile history of each stranded students and migrant workers relating to work and movement of each of them to ascertain the vulnerability, if any, of contracting the virus, so as to house them in specially segregated accommodation and for necessary observation and follow up.

He said a mock drill of all the officers/employees in the frontlines be conducted to ensure smooth operation of the Standard Operation Procedure which can be specifically prepared by the state for the same in a very comprehensive manner. Sangma said that many of the stranded citizens and their parents are under anxiety and suffering from depression and being pre-disposed to psychological stress due to loss of jobs, extreme hardships, sense of low esteem, uncertainty.

In his letter, the Congress legislator also highlighted a slew of measures for bringing back the stranded citizens by collecting details of all the stranded citizens immediately, and constitute a dedicated team with contact numbers under respective District Disaster Management Authority be created for the parents and relatives or NGOs to provide the details of the stranded students, migrant workers.

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“The parents, relatives or NGOs be requested/urged upon to share the details through aggressive and appropriate information dissemination measures adopted by district authorities using all available means keeping in mind the psychological stress of the affected people,” Sangma said.

He said a similar arrangement should be made for students, migrant workers and patients who are stranded in the state capital and other parts of the state to ensure that they reach their respective districts besides providing separate accommodations so as not to mix them up with trapped citizens when brought back from other states.

“The arrangement for this group should be done keeping in mind the COVID-19 positive cases in Shillong,” he said.

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