Chhattisgarh Won’t Open Borders Till Covid-19 Situation Normalises, Says CM Bhupesh Baghel

Chhattisgarh Won’t Open Borders Till Covid-19 Situation Normalises, Says CM Bhupesh Baghel

New Delhi: With the second spell of the nationwide lockdown scheduled to end on May 3, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel Friday said the state’s boundaries will not be opened up till the COVID-19 pandemic situation normalises.

Indicating continued restrictions in the Congress-ruled state, he said he preferred gradual relaxation of lockdown norms and state governments should be given the right to decide which districts to open depending on the local disease burden and containment efforts.

“The state boundaries will remain shut even after May 3. Chhattisgarh will not open its borders till the COVID-19 situation improves and normalises,” Baghel told PTI in an interview.

“After all, state governments also have responsibilities towards their people. They have been elected by the people,” he said.

Another Congress-ruled state of Punjab has already announced continuation of the lockdown for two more weeks beyond May 3.

Baghel, however, said goods carriers will be allowed to operate along inter-state routes to ensure a smooth supply chain.

On the issue of stranded migrants, the Chhattisgarh chief minister said the Centre must run point-to-point trains to bring the labourers back home as it is difficult to deploy buses to ferry all of them from long distances.

He said the state has 1.5 to 2 lakh migrant labourers stranded across different states and they cannot be brought back through buses alone.

“The central government should deploy sanitised point-to-point trains for their safe return,” he said.

Baghel admitted that there were dangers involved in the return of migrants amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, but asked, “can we allow our own people to remain away from their homes for months”.

He also said allowing migrants to walk miles without food, water and safety was a “worrisome and a wrong practice”.

He said the question was how can people be brought back safely, and noted that in Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala alone there were thousands of Chhattisgarh migrants waiting to return home.

Baghel said he has urged Home Minister Amit Shah to allow running special point-to-point trains to bring them back. “There has been no assurance in this regard so far,” he added.

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