Panic has gripped Pune's migrant labourers, who are rushing out of the city to catch trains to north India, following rumours of a riot on Monday that could target them.
The talk of a communal disturbance was sparked after Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said he intended to do Chhat Puja — it is performed by people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar after Diwali — in front of the Mumbai home of Raj Thackeray. Activists of Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena recently attacked migrants from North India settled in various parts of Maharashtra.
It is unclear why people expect trouble on Monday, but the migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, mainly engaged in construction work here, are not waiting for answers. Their march to the railway station began three weeks back, but their crowd swelled in the last two days causing enough difficulty for rail staff even after bogies were added to north India-bound trains.
Pune district guardian minister Ajit Pawar has asked police to take stern action against those who were threatening migrants.
Pawar called a meeting of the district administration on Saturday following a request from the Promoters and Builders Association of Pune. The migrants' run has directly hit the construction industry in this city that is an emerging IT hub.
Almost 60,000 migrant labourers are estimated to have left already.
Pawar told the police not to "wait for the complaint". "Take action. You can even take action under MOCCA," he is believed to have told police officials at the meeting.
The police have been directed to increase patrolling in certain areas where north-Indian labourers stay.
Additional force of the railway police has been deployed on platforms of north-bound trains like the Patna Express, Jammu-Tavi Express and Gorakhpur Express.
Pawar also had a telephone talk with Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil, who also holds the home portfolio, and requested for more forces to help the police.
All these law and order measures will be enforced in rural parts of Pune district too. Several industrial units employing migrants have also started feeling the hands crunch. Administration was also asked to remove all the provocative boards immediately.
Pawar blamed anti-social elements for spreading the rumours. "I am going to take up the issue with Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister. I hope wisdom will prevail and (Lalu Prasad) Yadav will postpone his visit to Mumbai," he said.