- Many migrant workers gathered at Mumbai's Bandra station to go home
- Amit Shah said, "such events weaken India's fight against COVID-19"
- Uddhav Thackeray said the migrants thought trains start operating today
After a protest by a large number of migrant workers at Mumbai's Bandra this evening against the coronavirus lockdown, Home Minister Amit Shah called Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and expressed concern. Such events weaken India's fight against coronavirus and the administration needs to stay vigilant to avoid these, Amit Shah told the Chief Minister on the phone. He also offered his full support to the Maharashtra government, said officials.
Over 1,000 migrant workers gathered at Bandra Railway station in suburban Mumbai demanding transport to return to their states, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an extension of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown till May 3. In videos, the police were seen using batons to disperse the crowd.
"They thought the trains will start and they will go home," Uddhav Thackeray told the media.
Mumbai has a large number of migrant workers who have been left without jobs and homes after all economic activity shut down in attempts to check the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The police claimed the crowds dispersed after they were assured food and shelter by the administration. The migrants were mostly from Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Drones were used to make public announcements warning them against gathering.
The visuals of a large crowd escalated concern in Mumbai, which has a large number of coronavirus cases and multiple containment zones. There are more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 in the country's financial capital, which is over half the 2,300-plus cases in Maharashtra.
State Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray, the son of the Chief Minister, blamed the central government and sought a roadmap to facilitate the migrants' journey home.
In a series of tweets, Mr 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... They don't want food or shelter, they want to go back home."
More than six lakh people are living in shelters across Maharashtra, he said.
In the first few days after the country went into lockdown, thousands were seen on the road, attempting to return to their villages without any public transport, presenting a frightening picture at a time social distancing is critical to stop the virus from racing through the population. Most of the migrants were stopped and moved to shelters, but stories of their desperation for food and shelter keep emerging every day.