Bandra fiasco: Political blame-game between Aghadi and BJP after thousands gather in Mumbai defying lockdown

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Updated: April 15, 2020 1:48 PM

Leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, however, directly blamed the Centre for the crisis while the BJP termed it as a failure of the alliance government.

Migrant workers from nearby settlements gathered at suburban Bandra (West) bus depot near the railway station demanding ration. Express photo by Zoya Lobo)

A political blame game has snowballed between the ruling parties and opposition in Maharashtra after thousands of migrant workers gathered at the Bandra station in Mumbai hoping to get back home. The gathering not only highlighted the plight of the migrants but also posed a potential risk of a further spread of coronavirus in Mumbai which is already among the worst-hit in the state. Soon after the gathering was reported, Union Home Minister Amit Shah dialled Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to stress on the importance of enforcing the lockdown and to ensure that such incidents are not allowed to happen.

Shah said that such events weaken the country’s fight against coronavirus and the administration needs to stay vigilant to avoid such incidents. CM Uddhav apprised the Home Minister that the situation was brought fully under control and assured that the workers will be provided with food and shelter. He said that the government will not allow anybody to play with the sentiments of migrants and disturb the law and order situation.

Leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, however, directly blamed the Centre for the crisis while the BJP termed it as a failure of the alliance government.

State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that the migrants who converged might have expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order the reopening of public transport after the lockdown period was over on April 14, but the lockdown was extended for another 19 days till May 3. Deshmukh said that he has ordered a probe to find out who spread the rumour that trains will resume operations. One individual has been detained in relation to the crime.

“Those found guilty of sparking such rumours will be dealt severely invoking the fullest force of law,” he said in a tweet and assured that the state government was making all possible efforts to provide food and shelter to them.

Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray too blamed the Centre for the crisis, saying a roadmap to facilitate their journey back to their native places must be arranged.

“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,” he tweeted.

Senior BJP leader and former CM Devendra Fadnavis retorted saying it was the responsibility of the state to arrange for food and shelter for the workers.

Terming the protest as a very serious incident, he said, “It is unfortunate that the Centre is being blamed in such a situation to escape. The fight against coronavirus is not political, please note this at least now. It is my earnest request that we fight this battle seriously.”

Another BJP leader Kirit Somaiya also slammed the MVA government. He described the incident as an intelligence failure. “Will Thackeray Sarkar explain how thousand people gathered at Bandra (West) near Station? What was Intelligence doing? From where do these people come? How suddenly do they gather there in spite of 144? Since lockdown never Police allow more than 4 people allowed, then How & Why today?” he tweeted.

According to the state government data, more than six lakh people are housed in various shelter camps across Maharashtra. The state is worst affected by coronavirus in the entire country. While the country has reported a total of 377 deaths, Maharashtra tops the tally with 178 deaths. The Union Health Ministry data showed that there are 11,439 positive coronavirus cases in the country of which 2,687 are reported alone from Maharashtra, the maximum by any state.

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