Surat: Migrant workers' protest turns violent; police lob teargas shells
A clash broke out between migrant workers and police officials in Gujarat's Surat on Monday. Reportedly, the police resorted to baton-charging and teargas-shelling as the workers demanded that they be sent back home to their native states. Last week, the Centre had allowed inter-state movement of stranded workers. However, it clarified on Sunday that only distressed workers would be allowed to go home.
According to News 18, the migrant workers pelted stones at the police, who fired teargas shells at the protesting workers. The workers have been staging protests to voice demands of being sent back home. The police were sent to pacify the protests. However, the situation escalated into a clash with angry workers reportedly damaging vehicles. The police also baton-charged the workers.
#BREAKING – Migrant workers clash with police in Surat, Gujarat.— CNNNews18 (@CNNnews18) May 4, 2020
Migrant workers throw stones, cops resort to lathi-charge.@dave_janak with details.#IndiaFightsCOVID19 #TotalLockdown #StayHome pic.twitter.com/Gkg1JF4ZtR
According to NDTV, the protesting migrant workers had gathered outside the market area in Vareli on the outskirts of Surat. Separately, migrant workers staged another protest at the Palanpur Patia area of Surat, the report added.
Surat is an industrial city in Gujarat where migrant workers from several states come for employment. After the nationwide lockdown came into force on March 25, migrant workers across India were the hardest-hit, losing out on jobs amid the lockdown and unable to return home with no means of travel. With no income, unable to pay rent, some migrants were even evicted from homes.
In Surat, migrant workers had staged a protest on April 28, too. The workers pelted stones at the Diamond Bourse office alleging that they were being forced to work amid the nationwide lockdown.
The state of Gujarat has notably reported the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in India after Maharashtra. On Sunday, Gujarat recorded its biggest spike with 374 new cases. This took the state's tally to 5,428 cases with 290 deaths. The 28 deaths reported on Sunday also marked the highest single-day fatalities. Surat has reported 686 cases of COVID-19, including 30 deaths, thus far.
The execution of the lockdown has sparked anger across the migrant worker community. On Sunday, thousands of workers blocked National Highway 3 in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, and pelted stones at police personnel. The workers had reportedly been stopped from proceeding to move towards Uttar Pradesh. Three cops sustained minor injuries and the protest was cleared after the police held talks with them.
In Chennai on Saturday, hundreds of migrant workers had gathered to stage a similar protest. The workers demanded that the Tamil Nadu government arrange transportation for them to reach their native states.