Indian State Police Uses Tear Gas against Jobless Workers Returning Home

On Monday, March 30, 2020, Indian authorities said that the police started using tear gas to disperse the gathering of migrant workers who were demanding to provide transport for returning their homes.

The public transport services in the country including buses, trains, and airplane travel had been shut a few weeks back as part of the central government’s policy for national lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Concerning the alarming rise of the virus cases, the central government imposed a national lockdown for a three-week which caused several workers from other states stranded and defied the curfew to reach their home states.

Jobless Workers Clash with Police

The nationwide shutdown of business operations across the country has forced hundreds of thousands of daily wagers and poor workers to become jobless and had to travel in hunger to reach their home towns. The latest move of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for self-isolation policy and stay-indoors until April 15, has shattered the lives of the poor workers in the country since the government closed the transport service.

A Source reported, police in western India fired tear gas to disperse a stone-pelting crowd of migrant workers who defied a three-week lockdown of the government and made complaints to open transport for them so that they could go back to their homes.

Thousands of these workers were the poor migrant laborers employed in big cities including Delhi and Mumbai and seeking means of transport to go back to their home towns after losing their jobs due to the nationwide closure of markets and businesses. Sources reported that many of them have been walking for days and some with families including small children, on deserted highways with little access to food or water.

On Sunday, citing the clash happened with the police, Surat deputy commissioner of police, Vidhi Chaudhari said. “The police tried to convince them that it is not possible since buses or trains are not available…However, the workers refused to budge, and started pelting stones at police.”

India’s Virus Crisis

Until the early Monday, India has registered nearly 1,071 cases of the virus infection, of whom 29 have died. Despite the fatal rate and the number of infection cases were small compared to other countries including the US, Italy, and China, Indian health officials expected that the major escalation of the virus outbreak would be possible in a week’s time.

Dr. S.K. Singh, the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, said, “It’s an evolving situation with daily new challenges coming up, like having migratory populations moving from one place to another. Like non-affected states adjoining affected states.” A local TV showed that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) health workers, dressed in protection suits, sprayed disinfectant gases on those group migrant laborers returning to their homes from neighboring states.

A government officer in the northern district of the UP, Nitish Kumar said that health workers were also issued orders to disinfect buses being used by the local authorities to prevent the transmission of the virus onto migrant workers. He said in a tweet, “I have asked for action to be taken against those responsible for this.” On Monday, the central government expressed that there was no plan to extend the national curfew beyond the 21 days.

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