Hundreds of migrant workers throng Mumbai's Bandra station demanding transport to return home; cops resort to lathicharge
Defying lockdown, Hundreds of migrant workers gathered outside the Bandra railway station in Mumbai on Tuesday asking for transporting facilities to go back to their villages
Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of a nationwide lockdown on Tuesday imposed to halt the spread of the coronavirus till 3 May, hundreds of migrant workers gathered outside the Bandra railway station in Mumbai asking for transporting facilities to go back to their villages.
According to reports, heavy police deployment was seen in the area and the police resorted to lathi-charge in order to disperse the gathering.
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
Daily wage earners, numbering around 1,000, assembled at suburban Bandra (West) bus depot near the railway station and squatted on the road at around 3 pm, PTI quoted a police official as saying.
The daily wage earners, who reside on rent in slums in the nearby Patel Nagri locality, were demanding arrangement of transport so that they can go back to their native towns and villages.
They originally hail from states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
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.
According to PTI, though authorities and NGOs have made arrangements for their food, most of the migrant workers want to go back to their native places to escape the hardship brought by the sweeping curbs
One of the labourers, who did not reveal his name, said that NGOs and local residents are providing food to migrant workers, but they want to go back to their native states as the lockdown has adversely impacted their livelihood.
"Now, we don't want food, we want to go back to our native place, we are not happy with the announcement (extending the lockdown)," PTI quoted him as saying.
Asadullah Sheikh, who hails from from Malda in West Bengal told PTI: "We have already spent our savings during the first phase of the lockdown. We have nothing to eat now, we just want to go back to our native place, the government should made arrangements for us."
Another labourer, Abdul Kayyun, told the news agency," I am in Mumbai for last many years but have never seen such a situation. The government should start trains to shift us from here to our native place."
Heavy police deployment was made at the protest site to tackle any untoward incident. Personnel from other police stations were called at the spot to maintain order, said a police official.
The police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowds, reported India Today.
Similar scenes were also witnessed at Mumbra in Thane, where migrant workers said that they were being forced to pay rent even after being rendered jobless. Workers, mostly from Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, who live in rented accommodations, claimed that houseowners were demanding rent from them and they were unable to procure essentials.
State home minister Anil Deshmukh said the migrant workers might have expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would order reopening of state borders ad said that he has ordered an investigation into rumours about such trains taking to take the migrants back home.
I have ordered an investigation into the rumour that claimed trains to take migrants back home.
Those found guilty of sparking such rumours will be dealt severely invoking the fullest force of law.#ZeroToleranceForRumours
— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) April 14, 2020
Meanwhile, an FIR was registered against at least 1000 migrant workers for assembling near the station and causing a public health scare, a police official told PTI. No arrests have been made yet and the workers are being identified, a Bandra police station official said.
"We have registered an FIR under sections 143 (Whoever is a member of an unlawful assembly), 147 (Punishment for rioting), 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)," he said. Besides section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act has also been invoked against them, he said.
Earlier , state tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray blamed the Centre for the incident and said that a "road map" prepared by the Union government would help the daily wagers reach their homes.
The current situation at Bandra Station, now dispersed or even the rioting in Surat is a result of the Union Govt not being able to take a call on arranging a way back home for migrant labour. They don’t want food or shelter, they want to go back home
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) April 14, 2020
"The law and order situation in Surat, Gujarat, largely has been seen a similar situation and the feedback from all migrant labour camps is similar. Many are refusing to eat or stay in. Currently more than 6 lakh people are housed in various shelter camps across Maharashtra," he said while highlighting that the state government has raised the issue with the Centre.
A mutual road map set by Union Govt will largely help migrant labour to reach home from one state to another safely and efficiently. Time and again this issue has been raised with the centre.
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) April 14, 2020
Both the Centre and state governments have announces several measures to prevent exodus of migrant workers soon after the first lockdown was announced on 24 March.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had even issued an issued an advisory asking states to make arrangements for providing food and shelter to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganised sector workers stranded in their states.
With inputs from PTI
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The state authorities have now allowed restaurants, tea shops, bakeries, roadside shops and snack shops to operate with 50 percent capacity till 9 pm