Coronavirus outbreak: State and Centre blamed over Bandra incident

Updated: Apr 16, 2020, 07:15 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

MVA government blamed for ignoring migrants' plight, Centre accused of mismanaging lockdown

More than 2,000 people had gathered outside Bandra station on Wednesday demanding to be allowed to go home. Pic/Rane Ashish
More than 2,000 people had gathered outside Bandra station on Wednesday demanding to be allowed to go home. Pic/Rane Ashish

Even as two prominent arrests were made in Tuesday's mass gathering at Bandra station, the political blame-game began with allegations and counter-allegations.

The Shiv Sena-led state is being blamed for disregarding the homesick migrants' need for food and shelter in the pandemic, while the Centre has been accused of mismanaging the national lockdown making things difficult for state governments.

A mainstream Marathi news channel ABP Majha's Osmanabad-based bureau chief Rahul Kulkarni was arrested for filing a news report that said trains would operate in the extended lockdown period.

Kulkarni, however, said that his news report was based on a letter written on April 13, 2020 by Chief Commercial Manager (Passenger Division) of South Central Railway (Securaderabad) to Senior Divisional Commercial Managers.

"How many of my trolls have watched the news on April 14? Did I say when the trains would start running? Please read the railways' letter," tweeted Kulkarni. When contacted, ABP Majha editor Rajeev Khandekar said the channel would issue a statement.

Some people branded Vinay Dubey, chief of NGO Uttar Bharatiya Mahapanchayat accused of threatening a protest against the delay in long-distance train services, as a leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

The MNS denied the person was associated with it, but said Dubey had shared the dais with MNS chief Raj Thackeray during his interaction with north Indian people. CM Uddhav Thackeray in his Tuesday night's address said, "Raj is also with me (in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and not politicising it)". The CM also assured migrants food and safety.

State to be blamed: BJP
Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said the incident was shocking. "We have been demanding ration and food to ration card holders and also to people who do not have ration cards. PM Narendra Modi has been appealing for social distancing and if the trains start, the basic purpose of social distance will be defeated," he said.

"At least, now the state government must learn a lesson and ensure that such dangerous incidents do not take place in the future," he said.

"Understand that the war against Coronavirus is not a political war. We have to be united in fighting it. The state government should be finding solutions rather than hunting for copouts," he added.

Congress alleges conspiracy
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said there have been 11 sources that spread the rumour of trains resuming. "A proper probe will establish a link between them," he said.

"Railway ministry has caused chaos. Rumours are spread to give a shape to the Bandra incident. The BJP has been making accusations and statements to create public discontent by asking the CM (Thackeray) to resign," Sawant told mid-day.

He said the railway minister was completely responsible for the chaos. "Extreme mismanagement and careless approach has been the epitome of the Modi government. How could they book tickets in advance? Why didn't they inform us about the cancellation of trains earlier?" Sawant also wondered how a news channel had found communication between railway officials.

The issue also saw discord between Congress and Shiv Sena when Congress's Bandra East MLA Zeeshan Siddique told a news channel that the government hadn't provided any ration to people and said he was personally providing essentials to people in Bandra East and West.

He later corrected the goof-up by responding to the channel's social media post that the CM had been doing a great job and demanded that the Centre must release funds to the state. A senior police officer who was part of the team that handled the situation denied any conspiracy but said that people had gathered at Bandra only to create pressure on the authorities.

"Some people are making a mountain out of a molehill. We handled the situation well and people responded well. But we had to lathi-charge when some unruly people stayed back, prevented the needy from receiving ration and scuffled with the police force. We assured them shelter with a request that they cannot be allowed to go home for their own safety," said the officer.

No. of people Cong has accused of spreading rumours

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