Hundreds of migrant workers defy lockdown in Kerala, demand to be sent home

Migrant workers along with their family members wait to board buses to their respective villages, amid a nationwide lockdown in wake of coronavirus pandemic, at Lal Quarter Bus Stand in New Delhi, Sunday | Photo: PTI
Hundreds of migrant workers in Paippad in Kerala's Kottayam district came out on the roads today, violating the lockdown order by the government, demanding travel facilities to return to their home towns in the northern States. The district collector said food and accommodation for all of them had already been arranged, but they were misled to believe they could could go back to their own States.

The incident took place on Sunday, when hundreds of migrant workers suddenly came out together on the roads and demanded that government officials arrange transport to their hometowns. Rail, road and airline transport from Kerala to other States stopped last week after the Coronavirus spread warranted a lockdown across the country.

"We have information that they have been instigated by somebody. They want to go back to their native places, but that is impossible in the current situation. The district administration has already arranged accommodation for thousands of them but when we arrived here yesterday, they were not ready to occupy the rooms," Kottayam district collector P K Sudheer Babu told reporters.

He added that they might have drawn inspiration from other migrants who used similar measures in other states. He said while the community kitchen is providing them with south Indian food, the administration can make arrangements for north Indian food as well.

On Saturday, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his government had written to Chief Ministers of other States such as Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Manipur about the welfare of the migrant workers, and informed them about the measures it has taken for their safety and well-being.

The State has one of the highest number of Coronavirus cases detected in the country, at 202, including 20 that were reported today. Of the 20 new cases, 18 returned from other countries, while two were infected through local contact, said State Health Minister K K Shailaja. At present 181 patients are under treatment in various hospitals in the State. A total of 141,211 are under observation, of which 593 are in hospitals. Samples of 6,690 people have been sent for test, of which 5.518 were turned negative.

She added that the State government is arranging rapid test kits approved by ICMR-NIV, Pune, to expedite the testing process in order to curb community spread. 

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