Migrants sprayed with bleach upon return to UP, govt says action taken

An official claimed the migrants were sprayed with chlorine water and that no chemicals were used

The batch of migrants had returned to the state over the weekend in special buses arranged for them | Screengrab

The Union health ministry on Monday (March 30) said action has been taken against the employees who sprayed bleach on migrants in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district after they returned to the state amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a viral video, migrant men, women, and even children, were seen squatting on the road while personnel in protective gear ordered them to close their eyes and sprayed bleach on them. Many were seen crying during the process.

“Bareilly District Magistrate has clarified that some employees took an overzealous step due to ignorance. Required action has been taken against those employees,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry.

The video surfaced on a day when the Supreme Court took up a petition seeking relief for the thousands of migrants who were walking back to their hometowns from different urban centres across the country during the 21-day lockdown.


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An NDTV report said the batch of migrants seen in the video had returned to the state over the weekend in special buses that were arranged for them. Police personnel were also seen watching the incident, it said.

The clip soon triggered a wave of criticism of the district administration, thus prompting the officials to issue a clarification. An official claimed the migrants were sprayed with chlorine water and no chemicals were used, said the report.

“We did not mean to be inhuman. It was important to sanitise everyone. There was a huge rush as large number of people had returned. So we did what we thought was best,” the report quoted the official as saying.

Condemning the incident, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra appealed to the Uttar Pradesh government to not indulge in “such inhuman actions.”

“I appeal to the UP government… all of us are fighting together against this crisis. Please don’t indulge into such inhuman actions. The labourers have already suffered a lot. Don’t spray chemicals on them. This won’t protect them; rather it would harm their health,” she tweeted in Hindi.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav too targeted the Yogi Adityanath government over the incident and asked whether the WHO had issued any direction in this regard.

“The spraying of chemicals on migrants to sanitise them has raised some questions. Has the World Health Organisation given any direction in this regard? How do you treat the burning sensation caused by the chemicals? What arrangements are there for people to change out of wet clothes? What alternatives are being provided for the food that gets wet due to the spraying?,” Yadav tweeted.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day complete lockdown across the country from March 24 midnight in a bid to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus pandemic that has already killed at least 29 people in the country.

The lockdown triggered a mass exodus of migrants from urban centres to their native places. However, due to the absence of public transport, many were stranded in several parts of the country. It was reported that thousands of them had even started walking towards home, which could be hundreds of kilometres from the cities they worked in.

In a relief, the state governments in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh had arranged special buses for the migrants to transport them to their hometowns. However, they would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon their return. A day earlier, the central government had directed all the states and UTs to seal their borders and prevent any movement of people.

(With inputs from agencies)