When the whole nation was ensuing the Prime minister’s order for lockdown for 21 days with few exceptions suddenly hell broke loose when lockdown was extended till 3rd May. While most of the nation was accommodating with this, a huge group of people in the state of Maharshtra came out defying social distancing norms.
In the words of Mumbai Police PRO, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Pranaya Ashok- “Today at 4 pm, around 1,500 people gathered at Bandra railway station premises. Many of them were migrant laborers. They were unhappy with the extension of the lockdown and wanted to go back to their homes. They have placed their demand before administration.”
Despite putting a huge population at risk of Corona, this incident has raised a lot of questions. How all of them came at a fixed place and fixed time without any prior planning? If they wanted to go to home, why were they empty handed (without luggage)? What made them feel that no one is going to feed them for another 19 days while they were getting food in last 21 days? Question also arises on the number of protesters, according to Mumbai police they were 1500 but some media houses are showing that the number is 3000. The location of the protests was 60 meters from Sunni Jama Masjid which also raises a question keeping in mind the past activities that happened in mosques.
Bandra East is house to around 3 lac of migrant labor living in slums nearby. Information from local sources suggest that some rumors were purposely placed in a small area. People living in nearby Sion, Dharavi were uninformed about such development and they were too surprised when they saw this mess on News channels.
It’s a relief that the situation is under control now as DCP Ashok said, “Local police officials went to the spot…and tried to convince them.” A section of the crowd turned violent, so light force had to be used to bring them under control. The crowd was dispersed. Police is deployed there. The situation is normal and peaceful,” he said.
Earlier in Delhi nation experienced a chaos when migrant workers from UP and Bihar had assembled at Anand Vihar Bus stand on 28th March 2020, putting everyone in the crowd at the risk of getting infected. But if you look closely there is huge difference between these two crowds assembling for the same reason.
In Delhi it was an announcement about providing transport facility to the migrant workers which instigated them to reach Anand Vihar with luggage and family. They had been walking previously to reach their hometowns by foot. While in Mumbai, which already has the highest number of cases of Covid-19, it is not clear why they assembled in Bandra railway station premises when there was no announcement about trains to be resumed. Also we have seen videos of migrant workers crying and begging for help and this new image of violent and agitated migrant workers is difficult to digest at once.
Mumbai Police is also investigating how such a large number of people could assemble at the Bandra railway station premises, contravening the lockdown regulations. Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and expressed concern over the migrant workers’ protest, stressing that such incidents would weaken India’s fight against coronavirus. (source) Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, “The current situation at Bandra Station, now dispersed… 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.”