Union Home Minister Amit Shah dialled Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday (April 14), hours after thousands of migrants defied the COVID-19 lockdown and staged a protest in Mumbai, demanding transport arrangement for them to return to their native villages.
Shah expressed concern over the gathering and told Thackeray such events weaken India’s fight against the pandemic. He said the administration needs to stay vigilant to avoid such incidents, reported news agency ANI. Shah also offered his support to the Maharashtra government in enforcing the lockdown.
Over a thousand migrant labourers had gathered at the Bandra (West) bus depot, near the railway station, in Mumbai and squatted on road at 3 pm on Tuesday. This was hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3, in view of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
NDTV reported the police resorted to baton-charging the protesters to disperse them. The daily wage earners were demanding transport facilities so they can return to their hometown. Such workers have been rendered jobless ever since the lockdown was imposed, making their life a constant struggle.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the migrant workers 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.”
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“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.
Describing the Bandra gathering as an intelligence failure, former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya said the state government should explain how so many people gathered at a spot despite the lockdown.
(With inputs from agencies)