A protest by migrant workers in Mumbai wanting to go back to their native places amid the lockdown triggered a war of words between the government and the opposition in Maharashtra on Tuesday.
Hundreds of migrant workers who earn daily wages in Mumbai came out on road here on Tuesday demanding that authorities make transport arrangements so that they can go back to their native places. The Mumbai protest came close on the heels of rioting by migrant workers in Surat last week.
The workers, number around 1,000 and most of them hailing from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, held the protest at the bus depot near the Bandra railway station, hours after Prime Minister announced an extension of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown till May 3.
The protest led to a war of words between the Shiv Sena-led government and the opposition BJP.
Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray blamed the Centre for the protest 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.”
The migrant workers might have expected that the Prime Minister would order reopening of state borders, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said.
The migrants were assured that the state government will make arrangement of food and accommodation for them, following which the crowds dispersed, Deshmukh said.
BJP leader and former minister Ashish Shelar said the protest shows failure of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in enforcing lockdown.
Shelar said, All these labourers hail from Bandra (East), Bandra (West), Khar and other adjoining areas. How they reached the protest site under the lockdown situation? Why the government did not have any intelligence about the assembly of these workers. It shows the government failure.”
Lockdown should be made successful because it is for the safety of people, who should be provided with foods and other essential commodities at their doorstep, Shelar said.
Additional CP Manoj Sharma said, These all are local residents. A large number of people reside in this locality (Bandra), no legal action has been taken yet.”
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya also hit out at the government over the protest.
“This is a very serious issue. the Uddhav Thackeray government has failed to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” Somaiya said.
The government should make proper arrangements to distribute essential commodities to people, he said.
“Hope the Thackeray government will treat this incident seriously, this is an eye opener,” said Somaiya.
Local Congress MLA Zeeshan Siddique said this situation arose when people came to know about the lockdown extension.
“This is not a government failure, because we are also monitoring the situation from the very beginning. I personally distributed essential commodities to more than 50,000 people.
Under such a situation police should talk politely with the common man,” Siddique said.
An official from Bandra police station said initially food packets were distributed by policemen to workers when they came to the spot.
“But after sometime their number swelled and workers started snatching food packets, everything is under control, the mob was disbursed using lathicharge,” he said.