Police step up vigil to enforce lockdown after violations; migrant labourers flee to their homes

New Delhi, Mar 27(PTI) Police across the country stepped up their vigil to ensure there was no violation of prohibitory orders on the third day of the national lockdown on Friday but faced thousands of migrant workers who were massed in Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border and desperate to reach their homes.

Authorities were also working on ways to ease the hardships faced by migrant workers, who stare at loss of livelihood, trudging long distances back to their villages and also try fix the bottlenecks in movement of essential supplies.

The migrant workers gathered at Ghazipur were sent to the UP side of the border by police in batches and they appeared prepared to walk long distances in case no help was forthcoming to ferry them in public transport.

Around 40 migrant labourers working in Mumbai were also caught in Thane for allegedly trying to escape in a truck to Uttar Pradesh.

The 21-day coronavirus lockdown in force since Wednesday has triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers across the country since the last few days.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to some of the chief ministers and asked them to look into the issue of the mass exodus.

In an advisory, the Union Home Ministry asked state governments to prevent a mass exodus of migrant agriculture labourers, industrial workers and unorganised sector employees from their workplaces to hometowns .

The advisory to all states and Union territories said they should also make arrangements for uninterrupted supply of essential commodities to hotels, working women hostels so that they continue to live in existing facilities.

'The home ministry has issued an advisory to States/UTs to prevent mass exodus of migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and unorganised sector workers, so as to prevent the spread of COVID19,' an official spokesperson said.

The states and union territories have also been advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of measures taken by the government, including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the procedures.

'This would help prevent the exodus of such people,' the spokesperson said.

SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh said the airline is ready to operate some flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Patna to alleviate the suffering of migrant workers, especially those from Bihar.

Amid reports of violation of prohibitory orders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to K Palaniswami and B S Yeddiruappa, chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively, urging them to enforce strictly the national lockdown and ensure availability of essential commodities for the people.

'Morning at 9:30 Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to me and said despite lockdown in Karnataka aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, people are still coming out and commuting and instructed that proper bandobast has to be made. We have discussed regarding this,' Yeddiruappa told reporters in Bengaluru.

Amid concerns over availability of essential supplies, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) said it is regularly engaging with retailers and e-commerce companies to ensure that the supply chain of essential goods is not disrupted and various facilities continue to function smoothly.

Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India(COAI) also alleged that telecom operators are facing issues in maintaining networks as their employees on duty are being harassed and even beaten by police in some states.

The government has kept telecom services in the list of essential services in order to support work from home during the lockdown period.

Amid reports of movement of food delivery vehicles encountering problems from the police, a truck driver in Patna was shot at by police for allegedly refusing to pay bribe for his potato-laden truck to pass.

A senior police officer said three police constables were arrested and sent to jail.

People in several places threw the concept of social distancing to the wind by crowding at kirana stores and local markets.

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government will close down markets in Guwahati to avoid overcrowding after people jostled to get essential items despite the advice of social distancing in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.

Fancy Bazar, the main commercial hub of the Northeast, was chock-a-block with people knocking each other to buy food items, vegetables, meat and fish.

Tempos, trucks, private vehicles, rickshaws and hand-carts blocked the roads near the market, seeming to be just any other usual working day.

There were similar scenes in other markets in the city and other districts in the state.

In Madhya Pradesh, a muslim cleric and 27 others were booked for defying lockdown restrictions and offering prayers at a mosque in Bhopal city. Police said the Imam of Zainab Masjid in Islampura and others organised a prayer at 8 pm on Thursday, violating orohibitory orders.

Earlier in Kerala, two Catholic priests were booked for breaching the restrictions by conducting mass in a Church.

And in an incident apparently linked to the lockdown, police said a 38-year-old daily wage labourer In Thrissur in Kerala committed 'suicide' allegedly frustrated over not getting liquor and after struggling with withdrawal symptoms.

Sanoj, a painting worker, was found hanging from a tree next to his house, a police officer said.

'In our preliminary investigation, his family told us that he was frustrated over the closing of liquor shops. He was showing withdrawal symptoms as he was not getting alcohol for last two days,' the officer said.

In Uttarakhand, raids were conducted at sabzi mandis and provision shops by the food and supplies department to check illegal profiteering following complaints that traders were overpricing essential items at some places taking advantage of people's compulsions, state officials said in Dehradun.PTI TEAM GSN GSN GSN