What followed was chaos and eventually, police intervention was sought to make things go back to normal.
Thousands of migrants gather at Mumbai's #Bandra railway station and protested. All are migrant workers, specially from Bihar-Bangal and they wanted to go home. They had hoped trains will start today. The police is investigating the matter and says crowd has been dispersed now. pic.twitter.com/NMHfv0CEpj— Shivangi Thakur (@thakur_shivangi) April 14, 2020
The issue blew up obviously, posing a lot of questions. And the answer to most, being: We are doing our best, we are providing them with food.
Well guess what, that is not enough.
Even if we assume that the government is providing shelter and meals to every person in need, there still remains a lot to be done.
सूरत में भी आज बड़ी तादाद में मज़दूर घर जाने के लिए इकट्ठा हो गए. इसको किसी मीडिया ने दिखाया क्या pic.twitter.com/z9PAx7eQHr— Kailash Nath (@kailashnathsp) April 14, 2020
To start with: Clear communication between the authorities and migrant workers.
One of the primary reasons why people gathered at the two places, was because the Indian railways was allowing everyone to book tickets April 15 onwards.
This was an indication that the lockdown will end on that date.
A lot of migrant workers from Dhanbad are stranded in Surat. They had made train ticket bookings for 15th. When #Lockdownextention was announced, they panicked and rushed to the station. You can't blame them for ignorance. They had no intimation from Railways https://t.co/GXRGM6LKCX— Mayur Shekhar Jha (@mayur_jha) April 14, 2020
But on Tuesday (April 14), the PM announced that the lockdown will be extended till May 3 and the bookings had to be stopped.
This is where it got tricky. No one communicated this to the migrant workers. While the real reason for the gathering is still unknown, there are reports that some of them had tickets and wanted to arrive early - whereas others assumed they will be able to buy the tickets at the station.
Thousands of migrant labourers gather outside Bandra station, they were hoping that trains would start today and they would be able to go to their native place.— Saral Patel (@SaralPatel) April 14, 2020
This is the direct result of PM's #Lockdown2WithoutPlan. pic.twitter.com/XvQZ5VZ5Xo
Now whatever might be the basis of this confusion: Sale of tickets, incorrect media reportage, false word of mouth - migrant workers poured in large numbers because there was no one who could tell them better.
And that is an administrative problem.
Just In: More than 500 migrant workers gathered in Surat’s Varachha area demanding that they be allowed to return their home. They are migrants employed in textiles embroidery units in Surat. @the_hindu @nistula @abaruah64 pic.twitter.com/TdC1IWEfDT— Mahesh Langa (@LangaMahesh) April 14, 2020
Most of these people don't have the access to correct sources of information.
A lot of them don't have phones.
And even if if they have phones and the access, chances are high that they don't fully understand the impact of the new rules that have been imposed by the government.
None of that is their fault. Strictly, none.
Seen this #Modiji?— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) April 14, 2020
Your govt misrepresented truth of migrant crisis to SC
This crisis wont go away
First accept problem & work towards real solution w/ immediate wage payments & cash in hand to migrants & soft loans to businesseshttps://t.co/wLjTgLUdSs via @indiatoday
After 21 days of lockdown and witnessing the same thing in Delhi, why do we still not have government representatives communicating with, and reassuring migrant workers?
One has to realise that if they were prepared to leave on a particular date, even with all the transparency it was going to be difficult.
So without it, what happened should not come as a surprise.
Gujarat:Migrant workers in Surat resorted to violence on street allegedly fearing extension of lockdown."Workers blocked road&pelted stones.Police reached the spot&detained 60-70 people.We've come to know that they were demanding to go back home",said DCP Surat,Rakesh Barot(10.4) pic.twitter.com/q09Z7lsLwR— ANI (@ANI) April 10, 2020
These people are aching to go back home. Among other things, it is because they don't feel welcomed in big cities.
And there is absolutely no reason why they should.
The economic inequality manifests itself in the form of a cultural barrier between communities, and that daily wage workers are mistreated would be an understatement.
This is what happens when you lockdown without a plan— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) April 10, 2020
Migrant workers in Surat, Gujarat came on the roads, indulged in arson asking for salaries & to go back home
How long will the poor stay quiet? They have lost their jobs, savings & are desperate!pic.twitter.com/bZT8QX1rTy
In fact, no one really cared about them until now, when their movement is a threat to all. What are they supposed to do, though?
Stay in the city? For what? What we need is empathy for these people. We need to treat them as equals because truly, they are.
In Basti, 30 people are forced to share a bar of soap. In Gorakhpur, a single bucket is given to inmates for bathing & storing drinking water. A quarantine shelter in Audahi has no drinking water since last Tuesday. This is the plight of migrants in UP.https://t.co/VlehqF5mDJ— Shama Mohamed (@drshamamohd) April 15, 2020
Their lives are just as important as ours while their struggles are much bigger.
And for those in power, thumping their chests - there is no pride to be taken for doing the bare minimum. It is their duty.
What is required right now, is going out of the way to help those in need. By proper planning and budget allocation.