Outrage as migrants sprayed with disinfectant in India

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A screengrab of the video shows three people, dressed in protective gear, spraying the liquid directly on a group of workers as they sat on the ground in the city of Bareilly in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

NEW DELHI — Migrant workers, returning home during a nationwide lockdown over coronavirus, were doused in a “chemical solution” in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, sparking controversy.

The incident was caught on a video that showed three people, dressed in protective gear, spraying the liquid directly on a group of Indian workers as they sat on the ground in the city of Bareilly.

The public uproar forced the state government, which is led by a Hindu nationalist monk accused of gross human rights abuses, to order an inquiry into the incident.

In the full video, the officials are seen shouting instructions over a megaphone asking the workers to close their eyes and mouths. In another part of the video, an official can be heard ordering the group to "close the eyes of your children and close your eyes too".

Reacting to the incident, Bareilly's district magistrate said the video had been investigated. “The affected persons... are being treated under the supervision of the Chief Minister's Office," he said in a tweet.

"The team of the Bareilly Municipal Corporation and fire department officials were asked to sanitise buses but in their enthusiasm they sprayed the workers too," the district magistrate added in his tweet.

Tens of thousands of India's 45 million economic migrant workers have been making a long, arduous journeys back to their rural villages. Many of them had lost their jobs as businesses' shut their doors across India's cities due to the lockdown.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all states to seal their borders to stop the virus being imported into rural areas. Officials are now scrambling to find millions of migrant workers who had already returned to small towns and villages across the country, in order to quarantine them for 14 days. — Agencies


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