Over 1,000 migrant workers who earn daily wages gathered in Mumbai’s Bandra area demanding transport arrangements to go back to their native places, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown till May 3. The large gathering poses threat to the fight against COVID-19.
A police official said the migrants were dispersed two hours later and have been assured accommodation and food till the lockdown lasts.
Mumbai: A large group of migrant labourers gathered in Bandra, demanding for permission to return to their native states. They later dispersed after police and local leaders intervened and asked them to vacate. pic.twitter.com/uKdyUXzmnJ
— ANI (@ANI) April 14, 2020
In viral videos, police were seen using mild cane-charge to disperse the migrants, who had gathered near the Bandra railway station in suburban Mumbai.
Daily wage workers have been rendered jobless ever since the lockdown was announced late last month to stem the spread of COVID-19, making their life a constant struggle.
Though authorities and NGOs have made arrangements for their food, most of them want to go back to their native places to escape the hardship brought by the sweeping curbs.
Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh said the migrant workers who gathered outside Bandra railway station might have expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would order reopening of state borders.
They were told by the police that borders are not going to be opened and the situation was now under control, he said, adding the migrants were assured that the state government will make arrangement of food and accommodation for them, following which the crowds dispersed, he said.
State tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray blamed the Centre for the protest by the migrant workers and sought a road map to facilitate their journey back to their native places.
In a series of tweets, Thackeray said, “The current situation in Bandra, now dispersed or even the rioting in Surat is a result of the union government not being able to take a call on arranging a way back home migrant labour.”
“They don’t want food or shelter, they want to go back home,” Thackeray said.
He said feedback from all migrant labour camps is similar — that these workers want to go back to their native places.
“Many are refusing to eat or stay in these camps,” he said.
Currently, more than six lakh people are housed in various shelter camps across Maharashtra, he added.