Migrant workers go on rampage in Surat demanding nod to return home, 81 arrested

Updated on Apr 12, 2020 09:40 AM IST

This is the second such incident in Surat since the lockdown started. On March 30, over 90 migrant workers were arrested in Surat for attacking the police after they were denied permission to return to their native places.

Around 100 people migrant workers took to the streets at Surat’s Laskana area on Friday night violating the lockdown order, the police said.(PTI file photo. Representative image)
Around 100 people migrant workers took to the streets at Surat’s Laskana area on Friday night violating the lockdown order, the police said.(PTI file photo. Representative image)
Hindustan Times, Jaipur | ByJaykishan Sharma

The police arrested 81 people, mostly migrant workers from Odisha, in Surat late on Friday night on charges of rioting and violating the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. The workers resorted to violence after many of them were not paid their salaries for March and also denied permission by the authorities to go back to their native places because of the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown that started on March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), officials said.

This is the second such incident in Surat since the lockdown started. On March 30, over 90 migrant workers were arrested in Surat for attacking the police after they were denied permission to return to their native places.

Around 100 people migrant workers took to the streets at Surat’s Laskana area on Friday night violating the lockdown order, the police said. The angry workers went on a rampage, torching vegetable carts and damaging four vehicles.

“At least five hand carts were torched and stones were pelted at locals by the migrant workers, who took to the streets fearing that the ongoing nationwide lockdown would be extended beyond April 14. An additional police force was deployed and the situation was brought under control around 8.15pm on Friday. Initially, 35 workers were detained,” said RB Brahmabhatt, commissioner of police, Surat.

The police chief said no one sustained any injury and 400 police personnel were deployed at Laskana and its adjacent localities such as Diamond Nagar and Vipul Nagar, where a large number of migrant workers live.

“Late Friday night, 81 people were arrested and booked under Section 148 (rioting) and 270 (likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code and for the violation of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897,” Brahmabhatt said.

Bansidhar Lenka, general secretary of an organisation that takes care of the migrant workers from Odisha in Surat, said that Friday evening’s incident was unfortunate and the violent behaviour showed their growing anxiety because of the lockdown.

“Around 25,000 people from Odisha are working in embroidery units and textile factories in Surat. Each migrant worker earns between Rs8,000 and Rs12,000 a month. Half of the workers haven’t been paid their monthly salaries since the lockdown started, and the others have got paid 50% or less,” Lenka said.

Most of these workers have run out of cash and are struggling to meet their basic expenses. Many of them are on the verge of being thrown out of their accommodation, as they have not paid their last month’s rent. Besides, they need to send money back home to their families, he added.

The members of the factory association in Surat held a meeting with the district administration on Saturday and apprised the authorities about the situation on the ground.

Surat district collector Dhaval Patel said food is being provided at seven shelter homes for free and five non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also distributing meals to over 5,000 people twice a day.

“Fear psychosis led to the migrant workers’ unprovoked violence. Most of the workers, who took part in the violence, belong to Odisha’s Ganjam district. They had booked buses to go back to their native places. They’re afraid that if the lockdown is extended beyond April 14, they won’t be able to go back home,” said Patel.

In a separate incident, the police have lodged a case against Surat’s deputy mayor Nirav Shah for attending a religious function last week in violation of social distancing norms. Shah was booked after the video of him attending the religious function went viral on social media.

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