As migrant labourers gather to take trains home, Maharashtra CM assures them of care
Geetanjali Minhas | April 15, 2020 | Mumbai
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has assured the large number of migrant labourers who are getting anxious to return to their homes that the fight against the Covid-19 virus is being fought together, and they have no reason to worry as their needs will be taken care of.
A few hours after prime minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on Tuesday extending the lockdown till May 3, more than 1,500 migrant workers swarmed around the Bandra West railway station in Mumbai at around 3 pm. Defying lockdown orders they assembled on the road waiting to board trains back to their native villages.
Daily wage workers, mostly from UP, Bihar and West Bengal, wanted to return to their villages as the lockdown has affected their source of livelihood. According to reports, the migrants had been incited by fake social media messages that they could travel back to the villages.
Later in the evening, Thackeray addressing the media said that the workers were probably under the impression that the lockdown would be lifted on April 14, so they wanted to go home. Assuring the workers that once the lockdown is lifted, the government would assure they return home, he said. “The lockdown is not lockup. There is no reason to be afraid. We will not lock you; Maharashtra will take care of you.”
Thackeray thanked Modi for extending the lockdown and said that everyone was fighting the crisis together and there was nothing to worry about. He warned the opposition not to play politics as he said, “This is not the time to play politics. We have a lifetime ahead of us to do politics. I am warning those who are playing politics using innocent people.”
Speaking on Covid-19 tests, the chief minister said that Maharashtra is carrying out the highest number of tests and in Mumbai alone 22,000 tests have been conducted. “As many as 2,334 cases have reported positive till Tuesday morning and 230 people have returned home safely and 32 patients are serious. Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are the hotspots and we are increasing testing and contact tracing. Containment zones are the prime focus and we are trying to ensure all supply related problems [are solved in] containment zones also. We have not allowed virus to enter 10 districts and will have to eradicate it from other districts.” He also said that his government has now sought the centre’s permission for conducting plasma treatment and BCCC vaccine.
He further added that his government is setting up two teams of expert committees for line of action – consisting of doctors and economist. “We are dividing the hospitals into Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 facilities. The doctors’ team will have Dr Sanjay Oak and Dr Farokh Udvadia and BMC doctors. The economic team will be further divided into two. One team will be headed by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and will look into how the districts unaffected by the Covid-19 outbreak can start getting back to normal and another team will be headed by Rahgunath Mashelkar, Ajit Ranade, Deepak Parekh and Vijay Kelkar.”
Thackeray also cited the examples of a six-month old baby and an 83-year-old woman who recovered from the Covid-19 and expressed confidence that “together we can defeat the virus”.
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