Hyderabad: An Internal notice issued by the Secunderabad railway division is suspected to be the trigger behind Tuesday’s mass gathering of migrant workers near Bandra station in Mumbai.
On April 15th, thousands of migrant workers, defying lockdown norms gathered at Bandra West station, demanding to return home. The local police in Bandra had to resort of lathi charge to dispersed the crowd. But what led the migrant workers to the station amid lockdown, asked many. It was found that a large number were driven after a local news channel ran a story on the railways operating few trains to help migrant workers get home.
One of the source of information was a notice issued by the Secunderabad railways authorities. A. Malleswara Rao, deputy chief commercial manager passenger marketing of South Central Railway- Secunderabad, during a video conference held on 13th April had said, it has decided to run Jansadharan specials for clearing migrant labourers in unreserved segments. It further says some divisions have already given data of migrant workers and asked other divisions to submit the same.
The notice further reads, “All senior DCMs are once again requested to critically analyse the number of stranded passengers as well as migrant labour and submit the detailed proposal along with clear originating and destination stations to the office of CCM/PM immediately so as to discuss the proposal with the office of CPTM to run the trains as proposed by the divisions.”
Speaking on the issue, official spokesperson Southern Railway told NewsMeter, “It was clearly an internal letter and not intended for the public. Every railway division has been asked to take a count of the migrant labourers. This was intended to prepare the railways in case the ministry orders for special trains. It is only an anticipated scenario. No passenger trains will be run till May 3rd. Unfortunately, the letter was accessed by ABP news and circulated. The word ‘decided’ used in the letter created the confusion. Usually these letters written for internal purposes are more meant to be technically correct than grammatically. That’s the issue.”
Allegedly, a local channel from Maharashtra, ABP Majha had scrolled news saying that special trains have been arranged from Bandra station for migrant workers. The chief editor of the channel, Rahul Kulkarni also tweeted the above notice issued by the Southern railway saying trains are available from Bandra.
Later the West Central Railways came out with a clarification that no such notice has been issued by it under which the Bandra station falls.
Allegations are that the crowd was instigated as it is hardly possible for such a large group to gather at short notice. Also, none of the migrant workers were carrying luggage and they gathered in front of a police station which is 2 km away from the Bandra terminal.
Reportedly, two leaders of migrant labourers from Maharashtra have been detained for inquiry.
Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray appealed to the migrant workers to maintain calm and said a rumour about the resumption of outstation train services could have led to the gathering. He said the State Police is investigating the incident and those playing politics during a pandemic will be punished.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik tweeted a story reported by ABP Majha and said that it cannot be ruled out that the channels’ report might have triggered the massive crowd at Bandra railway station.