Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged migrants to not travel back to their homes amid growing concerns related to coronavirus, reported PTI. The prime minister’s appeal came as India confirmed 324 cases, and states imposed partial or complete lockdown to restrict the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.
“It is my plea to you to stay put for a few days in the city where you are,” Modi tweeted in Hindi. “We can all stop this disease from spreading by doing so. By crowding railway stations and bus stands, we are playing with our health. Please be concerned about your health and that of your families. Don’t step out of home if not necessary.”
Following closure of shops and several establishments in an attempt to avoid the risk of infections, an exodus started in Mumbai and Pune as tens of thousands of workers in the unorganised sector made their way back home, reported The Indian Express. Crowds gathered at bus and railway stations in the two cities in Maharashtra, and others attempted to travel through autorickshaws and taxis.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Medical Officer Dr Jeetendra Jadhav said they were told about a huge mob at Lokmanya Tilak terminus in Sion on Friday evening. “The railway police should have dispersed the crowd under the Epidemic Act,” said Jadhav. “It does not come under our jurisdiction. But it seems people are trying to return to their native places because they fear that trains and buses will be shut down, and they want to leave before that happens.”
The 2011 Census showed that Mumbai – that has districts such as Mumbai city, Mumbai Suburban, and Thane – has 46.44 lakh inter-state migrants and nearly 43.44 lakh of them originate intra-state. Around 30% of them earn a living from the unorganised sector.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the railways for not making sure that people were screened on long-distance trains. “I have been saying this for the last one month,” she told ABP Ananda. “Now India is entering the third stage [of the coronavirus outbreak], which is very dangerous. The next two weeks are extremely important. I have asked the chief secretary to tell the railway authorities to immediately stop all long-distance trains.”
The Banerjee-led administration has called for the suspension of the long-distance trains, and the chief minister has alleged that some states were sending people back after they “failed to stop spread of the virus”, The Telegraph reported. She also asked people who had already reached the state to stay at home for 14 days and to reach a hospital in case they developed symptoms.