Migrant labourers allegedly set three shelter homes in New Delhi’s Kashmere Gate on fire on Saturday, a day after they had a fight with the staff over food, NDTV reported on Sunday. The police said the staff beat up the workers on Friday, after which four of the labourers jumped into the Yamuna river, and one of them drowned. The shelters have been set up amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic, to provide accommodation to the migrant workers.
“Four to five people jumped into the Yamuna river,” Delhi Police Additional Public Relations Officer Anil Mittal said according to PTI. “They came out of the river after a while but one of them didn’t return. Later, police called divers, but they could not trace him.” The man’s body was fished out of the river on Saturday morning.
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On Saturday, the workers demanded action against the staff over the death of the migrant. They allegedly turned violent and threw stones at the police, and later set the shelter ablaze. Six people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The fire department was able to douse the flames and nobody was injured. According to the police, those arrested were among the people who created a ruckus on Saturday.
Blankets and personal belongings of the occupants, such as clothes and phones were destroyed in the fire, The Indian Express reported. The government is arranging temporary accommodation for the labourers.
Nishu Tripathi, who runs the shelter homes, alleged that the workers crowded around a fruit vendor on Saturday afternoon and refused to follow social distancing norms. “Civil defence volunteers asked them to behave and a fight took place,” Tripathi said. “There was pushing and shoving, and a volunteer was injured.”
Tens of thousands of migrant labourers had attempted to walk home to their villages in different states, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 25. However, the Centre, alarmed by the possibility of the spread of Covid-19 as a result of mass migration, ordered all states to seal their borders, and assured food and shelter for the workers in their places of work.
Late on Friday, hundreds of migrant workers in Gujarat’s Surat city came out on roads demanding salaries and transportation arrangements to go back to their home towns, fearing an extension of the lockdown. The workers set vegetable carts on fire and vandalised properties.
India has so far reported 8,356 cases of Covid-19, including 273 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.