Mumbai’s Bandra West railway station was flooded with migrant labourers who were hoping to get back home as they expected the lockdown to end on Tuesday.
The visuals from the Bandra station show a massive crowd gathered. The police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd.
The people gathered at the station are mostly daily wage labourers who are not able to earn since the government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25. Earlier, the lockdown was supposed to end on April 14, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday declared that the lockdown has been extended till May 3.
The migrants started congregating outside Bandra bus depot from 4 pm in a large number. The local residents estimated that there were around 3,000 migrants gathered at the place. “They demanded to run train to UP and Bihar so that they can go back to their native places,” said BJP MLA Ashish Shelar, who was at the spot.
Migrant workers gather at Bandra station amid #coronaviruslockdown. @sahiljoshii gets us latest updates.#6PMPrime with @Ankit_Tyagi01 LIVE https://t.co/4fqxBVUizL pic.twitter.com/zFaO8lmHtX— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) April 14, 2020
Crowd dispersed: Govt
According to a police official, daily wage earners, numbering around 1,000, assembled at suburban Bandra (West) bus depot near the railway station and squatted on road at around 3 pm.
The daily wage earners, who reside on rent in slums in the nearby Patel Nagri locality, were demanding arrangement of transport facilities so that they can go back to their native towns and villages.
They originally hail from states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
India Today TV spoke to Maharashtra Cabinet minister Aslam Sheikh who assured that there was no dearth of food for the migrants in the city.
“There is no question of food, food and rations are being provided to them. Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had assured that the arrangement will be made to send them back to their home after the lockdown ends, but now the lockdown has been extended so the people are anxious,” Aslam Sheikh said.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that the government has been able to persuade migrant workers to not go back to their hometowns as they may carry the infection with them.
“These people were hoping to get back home. We have been able to persuade them that they will have to wait as no state borders are open yet. The crowd has been dispersed,” he said.
“Mumbai has the largest number of migrant labourers, they had assumed that since today is 14th they will get a chance to get back home. We are glad that state borders have not been opened as if these people had gone back to their home they would have taken the disease with them to their villages,” the state home minister said.
“Migrant workers who gathered near Bandra station in Mumbai must have thought PM Modi had ordered the opening of state borders,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said.
Seriously alarming how big this crowd in Bandra was today. This in a city with the highest number of #Covid19 hotspots. #Lockdown2 pic.twitter.com/hLek2F6Cxw— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) April 14, 2020
Shiv Sena blames Centre
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s son and Shiv Sena MLA Aaditya Thackeray claimed that the crowd at the Bandra station was the result of the Union government’s improper planning.
“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 said on Twitter.
Party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi also trained her guns at the Centre. “The Union government must realise that migrant workers have largely cooperated in the past three weeks but there is impatience, urge central government besides looking at this crisis from health and economy perspective please consider the humanitarian and social side too. Happened in Surat and now in Mumbai,” she said on social media.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra CMO announced that CM Uddhav Thackeray will address a press conference at 8 PM.
BJP terms incident serious and unfortunate
Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis claimed that the incident took place because the state government did not show seriousness in handling the lockdown.
“Thousands of labourers coming on the streets is a very serious incident and disturbing. It’s the duty of the state government to provide them with facilities like food and other arrangements. We have been bringing it to the notice of the state government that these facilities are not being provided. In spite of that, the state government did not make these arrangements,” Devendra Fadnavis said.
“The state government should learn a lesson from this and take precautions in the future. It’s even more unfortunate that the state government is shrugging off responsibility and running away from it. They should understand that the fight against novel coronavirus is not political and it’s my request that the state government take it seriously,” he said.
BJP MP for Mumbai North Central (including Bandra West) Poonam Mahajan termed the incident unfortunate and sought an investigation into the matter.
“What happened at Bandra terminus is very unfortunate. As the MP – my office, BJP karyakartas and I personally have been working towards ensuring that every citizen is taken care of. But this gathering and reasons behind the panic of those gathered, needs to be investigated to prevent such incidents in the future,” she said.
“Mumbai is a hotspot for the virus, and we are here to help every citizen – regardless of which state they are from, together with @CMOMaharashtra & @MumbaiPolice. We should work together as a team to defeat the virus instead of indulging in politics during a national crisis,” Poonam Mahajan tweeted.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah called Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and expressed concern over the Bandra gathering. According to a statement, the home minister stressed that such events weaken India’s fight against novel coronavirus and administration needs to stay vigilant to avoid such incidents. He also offered his full support to Maharashtra government, the statement said.
We want to go back home: Migrants
One of the labourers, who did not reveal his name, said, “NGOs and local residents are providing food to migrant workers, but they want to go back to their native states during the lockdown which has badly affected their source of 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),” he said, looking dejected.
Asadullah Sheikh, who hails from Malda in West Bengal, said, “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 have made arrangements for us.”
Another labourer, Abdul Kayyun, said “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, the official added.
Similar situation in Thane’s Mumbra
Scenes similar to Bandra were witnessed in Thane’s Mumbra area on Tuesday where a number of labourers gathered. The labourers were seen demanding that they are allowed to return to their native villages. The Mumbai Police attempted to calm the situation but had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, the labourers alleged that they had run out of food and money which is why they are looking to return to their respective hometowns.
Meanwhile, similar crowds in Mumbra. #Lockdown2 pic.twitter.com/ZOxH6J9RHj— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) April 14, 2020
The number of cases in Maharashtra has risen to 2337, with at least 160 deaths.
(With inputs from PTI)