Over 90 migrant labourers have been arrested in Gujarat’s Surat city for defying a three-week lockdown that has left thousands of poor Indians without livelihood and shelter, PTI reported on Monday. The lockdown has been in place since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Nearly 500 labourers gathered in large numbers on the roads late on Sunday in Ganesh Nagar and Tirupati Nagar localities of the city to demand transportation arrangements to go to their hometowns. The Pandesara area, where both the localities are situated, is a hub of migrant workers. Most of them belong to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and work in power looms and textile processing units.

According to officials, police fired 30 tear gas shells to control the situation and disperse the labourers after they threw stones at them. “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,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Vidhi Choudhary said.

Choudhary said several police vehicles, including her own, were damaged by the mob during the clashes. The police arrested a few of them late on Sunday and the remaining were arrested on Monday, she added.

“We have lodged an FIR against a mob of 500 people and arrested 93 of them,” an official told PTI. “They were charged for rioting, attacking police, damaging public property and also under provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act for defying restrictions.”

The mass exodus of thousands of migrant workers, who are leaving for their hometowns, has sparked fears about the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Many have gone home after walking for days, some with families including small children, on deserted highways with little access to food or water.

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