Thousands of migrant workers across the country have been walking home to their villages without food and water after the government imposed a 21-day coronavirus lockdown with barely any notice. Multiple news reports and videos have revealed how, in addition to the hunger, thirst and exhaustion of the journey, they have been subjected to inhuman treatment by many law enforcement officials.
Just last week, the Badaun police chief had to issue an apology after a video showing a policeman making migrant workers crawl on the road went viral. This week, Uttar Pradesh is once again under the spotlight, this time for hosing migrant workers with a noxious chemical spray before they entered Bareilly.
The video—shared by a Times of India journalist on Twitter and retweeted by thousands of people—shows many workers squatting while people in hazmat suits spray them with a chemical solution. This, it was revealed later, was a mixture meant to clean buses, and not meant for human beings at all.
The Bareilly district magistrate said that the municipal corporation and the fire brigade were instructed to sanitise buses, but the overzealous officers doused the workers with the solution.
Responding to the video, the Bareilly District Magistrate said, “This video has been investigated, the affected people are being treated under the direction of the CMO. The team of Bareilly Municipal Corporation and fire brigade were given instructions to sanitise buses, but they did this because of being overzealous. Instructions have been given to take action against the concerned.”
The chief fire officer from Bareilly district said that they were using sodium hypochlorite—or, in other words, bleach. He also claimed that people walking home or waiting for buses may have come in the way of the sanitising fog.
As the video went viral, people on social media pointed out that this practice of forcibly spraying people was not done in airports, trains stations or bus terminals in India. Twitter users wondered why only the hapless migrant workers were being subjected to this.
Here’s what people said: