India's Ministry of External Affairs has sought permission from West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee-led government to take back 2,680 people from the state stranded in Bangladesh since the Covid-19 lockdown began in March.
In a letter dated August 7, it stated that 2,399 people want to return to their villages in West Bengal through the Petrapole-Benapole integrated check post (ICP), while 281 people want to enter through Phulbari-Banglabandha border, reported Indian news portal ThePrint.
Asked, an official at the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said the stranded ones had come to Bangladesh on tourist visas. He also said the borders might open soon and they would be sent back then.
The letter, sent by MEA Additional Secretary Vikram Doraiswami to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, stated that the stranded people are "unskilled or semi-skilled" labourers, and have been living in "extreme distress" under the lockdown, with no financial support.
It said Delhi has offered to arrange trains and vehicles for them once the West Bengal government approves.
"They are all from weaker sections of our society. Many are living in extreme distress, including sheltering in schools verandahs or public parks, and are increasingly desperate to return home. It is not feasible for them to fly home, they can only hope to return if they are allowed to travel by rail or road," it said.
ThePrint tried to contact Chief Secretary Sinha, but didn't receive a response.
However, a top official in West Bengal told ThePrint that a call was yet to be taken on allowing the migrants to return.
In the early days of the lockdown, the Mamata Banerjee government was reluctant to bring back migrant labourers stuck in other states, fearing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs had, in fact, written a series of letters asking the state to allow them to return.