Bihar migrants workers
Migrant workers are being stopped from returning to their homes in Bihar by villagers. Image Credit: Lata Rani / Gulf News

Patna: Anxious villagers are blocking the entry of returning Bihar migrant workers to villages due to surging COVID-19 cases fearing their lives could be in danger.

In Aurangabad, Rohtas and Samastipur, the villagers are keeping a watch on the movement of migrant workers returning home after several Indian states imposed partial lockdowns, night curfews and enforced other restrictions to check spread of the coronavirus.

As per the report, in several villages of Aurangabad district the villagers have earmarked school buildings, other government buildings and places of worship for the stay of the returning migrants so that they don’t mix with the villagers.

Same is being done in Samastipur, one of the districts having large number of migrant workers. The district surrounded by Ganga and other rivers faces flood fury every year, prompting the villagers to migrate to other places to eke out livelihood.

Second wave

“We have taken a lesson from the past. The same mistake won’t be repeated this time again,” said Vimal Kumar, a village chief who has been winning village council elections for the past four consecutive terms.

Another village council chief from Rohtas district Poonam Devi said they were keeping a close surveillance on the migrants returning homes from various states post surging second wave of COVID-19. “We have advised the migrants to isolate themselves far away from villages lest lapses on their part could cost them all,” she added.

Thousands of migrants have already returned homes from various states boarding trains while the railways have decided to run 28 more trains to bring stranded people in Maharashtra, one of the Indian states worst affected by coronavirus. The first train will reach Patna tonight.

Health authorities have got further alert after a total of 23 passengers coming from Maharashtra tested positive for COVID-19 at the station on Friday. East Central Railways General Manager LC Trivedi said railways had put on alert all health and security staff at the major stations and also sought cooperation from the passengers to help fight COVID-19.

“Railways has made fullproof arrangements for COVID test on the platforms itself. Any passenger found positive is being detained and rushed to the isolation centre,” the GM said.

Alarmed at the sudden increase in the COVID-19 cases, the Bihar government has enforced further curbs which came into force from Saturday (April 10). Under part of the fresh COVID-19 restrictions, all educational institutions have been closed till April 18.

Similarly, all religious places have been shut till April 30 while all business establishments will remain open only till 7 PM. However, the government has allowed the restaurants and hotels to function with 25 percent of seating capacity.

Partial restrictions

Cinema halls and public transport have been told to run with 50 percent occupancy while only 35 per cent attendance has been allowed in government offices.

“It’s not a lockdown but partial restrictions have been enforced following a sudden surge in coronavirus cases. We will review the situation in the next four-five days,” Bihar chief minister told a media conference on Friday evening. The chief minister also appealed to the masses to stay at homes if they don’t have any emergency works and strictly follow the COVID-19 protocols.

Meanwhile, in a shocking incident, a youth refused to cremate the body of his father who succumbed to coronavirus at the government Medical College and Hospital in Darbhanga district on Friday. The 65-year-old victim had retired from the railways department.

The hospital authorities contacted the family members to take away the victim’s body for cremation. Responding to the hospital’s call, the victim’s son reached the hospital but refused to take away his father’s body.

“I am unable to carry my father’s body home for cremation since none in the village is cooperating with me. Also, several members in the family have tested positive and are admitted to the hospital,” the youth told the hospital authorities before leaving the hospital in a huff. What was further appalling, the youth switched off his cell phone when the hospital staff tried to contact and persuade him.

Positive test

Eventually, members from a non-governmental organization performed his last rites at the local cremation centre on Friday night.

In Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Bhagalpur district, a lab technician refused to collect swab samples of a dead person and instead pressed his kin to collect the same for a test without providing him personal protective equipment (PPE), leaving him exposed to the virus. The victim tested positive for COVID-19.

Reports said the victim had died in a road accident on Thursday evening after which his body was brought to the hospital for autopsy. As per the rule, the victim’s COVID-19 test was must before postmortem.

“We have ordered an investigation into the incident and action will be taken after the probe report comes,” hospital superintendent Dr Asim Kumar Das said.