Gujarat lockdown: Fresh protests in Surat as migrant workers demand passage home, second such agitation in a week

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Updated: Apr 15, 2020 10:47 AM

Gujarat has reported 617 positive coronavirus cases so far. While Ahmedabad has 373 cases, Vadodara has reported 113 such cases. A total of 28 people have lost their lives.

Migrant workers gathered in the Varachha area of Surat and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.

Throwing all lockdown rules to the wind, a sea of migrant workers gathered in Gujarat’s Surat on Tuesday evening as they demanded that arrangements be made to facilitate their return to their native places. The migrants gathered in the Varachha area of the city and squatted on a road to press for their demand to be sent back.

Reports suggest migrants resorted to violence and demanded vehicles to go back to their native states. As soon as the administration learned about the gathering, they rushed to the site to control the crowd.

Police said that officials asked them not to be impatient because a lockdown is in force at present. The 21-day lockdown, scheduled to end on Tuesday, was extended by another 19 days to May 3 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation.

The situation was brought under control after intervention by the local police and local MLA and minister of state for health Kishor Kanani. He also visited the spot to convince the migrant workers, who are mostly from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “These migrant workers want to go home. They became impatient because they were hopeful that the lockdown will end today,” he said.

According to the police, some of the migrants were complaining about scarcity of food. Police said they called an NGO and immediately brought food packets for them.

“Labourers had gathered and wanted to go back to their home states. We explained to them that lockdown is extended so no vehicular movement is possible. They also complained that they’re not getting food. We called an agency which is serving food. We’re requesting people to take it,” the DCP of Surat was quoted as saying by ANI.

Surat BJP MLA Harsh Sanghavi said that the local administration was putting in all efforts to help the migrants. “We are putting all our efforts to help them. Every person stuck in Surat because of lockdown is like our own brother and sister. Things are sorted and clear here. Our administration is working round the clock to ensure the best of everything for them. Surat is like a home to them.” he tweeted.

Varachha is the diamond polishing hub of Surat. Lakhs of workers from different parts of the country flock to the city in search of a livelihood . Many textile units are also located in Surat. However, the lockdown enforced by the government in view of the spurt in coronavirus cases brought all business activities to a standstill, threatening the lives and livelihoods of these labourers many of whom depend on their daily wages to sustain themselves.

A similar protest was witnessed last week when hundreds of migrants resorted to violence and arson to press for their demands to be allowed to return home. Workers blocked the roads and even pelted stones. Nearly 60-70 people were detained by police.

Gujarat has reported 617 positive coronavirus cases so far. While Ahmedabad has 373 cases, Vadodara has reported 113 such cases. A total of 28 people have lost their lives.

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