Coronavirus (COVID-19): Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray switched to Hindi from Marathi during his address to the state Tuesday evening to connect with migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states and made a strong appeal to them to be patient, and stay back in Mumbai. Earlier in the evening around 4 pm, about 2,000 migrants had come out on the roads in suburban Bandra demanding arrangements to return to their native places.
“Main kehta hoon kyun pareshan ho rahe ho? Aap anya rajyon se yahan aaye ho, raho yahan. Hamare saath raho. Ek sankat hai, chunauti hai. Iska saamna milkar karenge. Aap kyun darte hain? Koi ghar jane ki aavashyakta nahi hai. Aur hamey khushi nahi ho rahi hai aap ko ghar mein lock karke rakhe (Why are you worried? You have come from other states, stay here with us. We have a crisis at hand, its a challenge. Lets face it together. There is no need to return now. We too are not happy keeping you locked in your homes.),” Thackeray said.
Expressing concerns over the Bandra incidence, Union Home Minister Amit Shah too spoke to Uddhav Thackeray before the latter addressed the state. “The Home Minister stressed that such events weaken India’s fight against Corona Virus and administration needs to stay vigilant to avoid such incidents. He also offered his full support to Maharashtra Government,” a Ministry of Home Affairs statement said.
Thackeray said the state was taking good care of the migrant workers. “We are taking proper care and providing whatever we can. Somebody might have spread a rumour saying the outstation trains would start today. I’m talking with the Centre about that as well. Nobody wants to keep you here against your will. The day the lockdown ends, the state and the Centre will make arrangements for your travel,” he said.
But NGO workers and policemen on the ground had been warning the administration that the migrants had run out of money and had no access to food, and that the government’s relief distribution was insufficient. Stranded migrants were waiting for April 14, expecting a relaxation in the lockdown and hoping to return home.
In a series of tweets, Aaditya Thackeray, Environment and Tourism Minister, however, took a swipe at the Centre and said, “The situation at Bandra or even the rioting in Surat is a result of the Union government not being able to take a call… They don’t want food or shelter; but want to be back home.” He said that a “mutual roadmap set by the Centre will largely help transport them from one state to another safely and efficiently… Chief Minister Uddhav Thackerayji had even raised this issue in the PM-CMs video conference.”
Hours after the Mumbai incident, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a short video message requesting migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and other states to stay back at least till May 3, and asked them not to fall for rumours. The Delhi government will make all arrangements in terms of food, medicines, he said.
“We are here to fulfill all your needs and address difficulties. We are arranging food, medicines. Many people will try to spread rumours. Some might claim they will take you back to your village in exchange of money. No one can take you home. Some might say DTC buses are running. There are no DTC buses available. Some might claim buses of UP government are at the borders. There are no buses,” Kejriwal said.
Migrants in few other states including Gujarat and Punjab too turned restless after the lockdown was extended.
A labourer in Panchkula, 18-year old Usman’s mother passed away on March 30 in the midst of the three-week lockdown. Along with about 60 other labourers, he is now on a hunger strike. “My family needs me in this period of mourning. Everybody wants to leave. When we heard the announcement… we just did not feel like eating,” he said.
The labourers broke the hunger strike soon after a Station House Officer, the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, and health officials reached the shelter home and spoke to them. “We have made them understand that they must eat,” said SHO Inspector Dalip Singh.
In Surat, hundreds of textile labourers came out on the streets in a residential neighbourhood Varachha, complaining of lack of food and demanding they be allowed to return home. Assuring that the issue would be resolved, the police went around requesting the migrants not to take law in their hands.
To contain the situation, the city police immediately sought help from an NGO and a tempo loaded with cooked food was organised. Labourers stood in a queue, maintaining social distance, and took food in their own vessels. The police officials also assured food supplies twice a day till the lockdown is lifted. The cops explained to them that all buses and other transport facilities had been halted.
(With inputs from Pallavi Singhal in Panchkula and Kamaal Saiyed in Surat)
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