The exodus of migrant workers from cities to their native villages has emerged as one of the biggest crisis amid the lockdown imposed in view of the Coronavirus outbreak.
While the images of migrant workers walking afoot hundreds of miles to their homes evoked sharp criticism against the government and prompted them to arrange for transport, a video has emerged that shows a group of workers being sprayed with disinfectants in Bareilly while returning to Uttar Pradesh.
After the incident, several migrants, including women and children, complained of burning sensation in their eyes.
The video was shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on Twitter on Monday.
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The video shows a group of men and women sitting on a road while two men in covered in white overalls spray on them disinfectants. Few men, who appear to be concerned officials, are seen capturing the incident on their mobile phones.
Someone can even be heard asking the workers, drenched in chemicals, to keep their eyes shut.
Several policemen can also be seen present at the spot.
Sharing the video, Gandhi said: "I appeal to the government in UP... all of us are fighting together against Coronavirus. Please don't indulge in such inhuman actions. The labourers have already suffered a lot. Don't spray chemicals on them. This won't protect them, rather it would cause more problems."
"The spraying of chemicals on migrants to sanitise them has raised some questions. Has the World Health Organisation given any direction in this regard? How do you treat the burning sensation caused by the chemicals? What arrangements are there for people to change out of wet clothes? What alternatives are being provided for the food that gets wet due to the spraying?," SP president Akhilesh Yadav tweeted.
Admitting the mistake in a tweet, District Magistrate Nitish Kumar attributed it to "over-active" civic bodies personnel and said action is being taken against the erring officials.
"The affected persons are being treated under the supervision of Chief Medical Officer. Teams of Bareilly municipal corporation and fire brigade were asked to sanitise the bus but due to over-activeness they did that. Orders have been issued to take action against the concerned," DM said in a tweet.
The 21-day lockdown imposed from Tuesday midnight in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus has triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities in several states to their villages.
The Supreme Court on Monday sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken in view of the large-scale migration of labourers from cities to their native villages amid the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent lockdown across the country.
The top court observed that the "migration of labourers out of panic and fear is becoming a bigger problem than the coronavirus".