Just days after migrant labourers took to the streets at Paippad in Kerala's Kottayam district demanding transportation facilities to return to their home states during the lockdown, a video has surfaced online wherein officials are seen spraying a liquid on workers travelling across the Kerala-Karnataka border in Wayanad.
This drew widespread flak as people compared it with another incident in Uttar Pradesh on Monday where migrant workers were bathed in disinfectants.
However, a Kerala Fire and Rescue Services official clarified that only 'soap solution' was sprayed on the inter-state travellers.
“It was just one incident at Muthanga in Wayanad,” A. Hemachandran, Director General of Police, Fire and Rescue Services, was quoted as saying, by The Hindu.
On Monday, migrant labourers returning to Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh were forced to take an open-air bath with a disinfectant (Sodium hypochlorite solution, commonly used as a bleaching agent to remove stains) if they wanted entry into the district.
The incident too has drawn widespread condemnation.
The Union Health Ministry termed it as "overzealous action" by field staff out of fear or ignorance, and said they have been reprimanded by the district magistrate.
The incident, caught on video and shared on social media, took place at Bareilly's Satellite bus station on Sunday.
Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health Lav Agarwal, while responding to a question regarding the incident during a press conference, said the district magistrate concerned has already clarified that it was some overzealous employees who did something which was not required.
"He has reprimanded all those officials. It was an overzealous action by field officers either out of fear or ignorance. There are no guidelines in terms of spraying disinfectants on people," Agarwal said.
The clip showed several migrants squatting on the ground as men in protective suits hosed them down. Someone is heard telling people to shut their eyes as the spraying begins. Several people in the group, which included women and children, complained of a burning sensation in the eyes.
SC seeks report
Taking note of the large-scale movement of migrant workers from cities to their native places on foot after the coronavirus lockdown, the Supreme Court on Monday said fear and panic is a "bigger problem than the virus", and sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken to prevent the exodus.
The apex court observation came even as the Central government issued orders to the States and Union Territories to make it a personal responsibility of District Magistrates to arrange food and shelter for stranded workers waiting to reach their native places after the imposition of the 21-day lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
The nationwide lockdown sparked the exodus of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers who undertook long journeys from major urban cities on foot to their native places in last five days, threatening to overturn the benefits of the lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has claimed over 34,500 lives globally and infected over 7.27 lakh.