Patna: A group of migrant workers who had arrived from other states were lathi-charged at a quarantine centre in Bihar were lathicharge by police for protesing against poor quality food, lack of cleanliness and basic amenities like proper sanitation facilities. The beating resulted in a worker’s hand getting fractured.
The incident is not an isolated one. Upset over poor facilities at quarantine centres, thousands of migrant workers have taken to protesting in over a dozen districts in Bihar over the past day. There are also several reports of migrant workers raising their voice and expressing their anger over the mismanagement at quarantine centres in government-run school buildings, panchayat buildings and other buildings across Bihar.
Angry over the poor quality of food being provided to them, 88 migrant workers who were kept at a quarantine centre in Dwarka Amrit Asharfi High School in Shambhuganj block of Banka district created a ruckus on Wednesday and also on Thursday. They have complained to the concerned local authorities but were ignored. As a result, the workers staged a protest inside the school premises near its main gate and shouted slogans against the government. They demanded proper food and other basic facilities including cleanliness of toilets.
Following the protest, the police lathi-charged them and several workers were beaten up, resulting in a young migrant worker sustaining a fracture in his hand while some sustained minor injuries.
The migrant worker who sustained a fracture was taken to a local Community Health Centre and later sent to a government hospital in Mayaganj in the neighbouring district of Bhagalpur for proper treatment. “The official who is in-charge of the quarantine centre has asked him to tell doctors that his hand was fractured after a portion of an old brick wall fell on him,” said a district official.
Umesh Prasad, the officer in charge at the local police station, refuted the charges and denied that his hand was fractured due to the police beating..
Paramjeet Sirmaur, the circle officer of Sambhuganj, claimed that the worker’s hand was fractured after he slipped due to the rains and fell.
In another incident, dozens of migrant workers at a quarantine centre at Bhagwanpur in Vaishali district expressed their displeasure on Friday.They alleged that they were given poor quality of food which was not on time, while also expressing their unhappiness over a lack of other basic facilities.
Vaishali district magistrate Udita Singh has assured them of an investigation into the matter.
Similar protests took place at quarantine centres in Bhagalpur, East Champaran, Madhepura, Begusarai, Gaya and Patna districts, where workers were up in arms about the food, lack of clean drinking water and dirty toilets.
Earlier this week, 25 migrants fled from a quarantine centre in Katihar district after alleging that the quality of food was not upto the mark and that there was lack of sanitisation. Before fleeing, they had alleged that they were being treated like animals at the quarantine centre. Several migrant workers have demanded district authorities to allow them to quarantine themselves at home instead.
A police official from the district who wished to remain anonymous said that the migrant workers informed local residents that they were being treated like animals and forced to sleep on the ground without a proper bed. The local administration traced ten out of the 25 migrant workers and brought them back to the quarantine centre on Wednesday.
According to several reports from the Koshi and Seemanchal region, which comprise nearly a dozen districts including Katihar, Purnea, Araria, Kishanganj, Madhepura, Saharsa, and Supaul, speak of similar conditions of quarantine centres.
According to officials, Koshi and Seemanchal are the hubs of migrant workers due to a high rate of poverty.
The reports are contrary to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s repeated directive to top state officials to provide facilities at quarantine centres for migrant workers, who have to stay in for 21 days. Saturday was the third consecutive day that Nitish Kumar directed district officials to regularly visit quarantine centres at block level for inspection and monitoring. “CM has asked top officials to arrange basic facilities at quarantine centres, increase the number of kitchens to provide proper food to migrant workers on time and ensure clean toilets and bathrooms for them,” an official said.
Information and Public Relation Department secretary, Anupam Kumar, said the state government has set up more than 3314 quarantine centres in 38 districts. He said that more quarantine centres will be set up in view of the increasing number of migrant workers arriving in the state on a daily basis. At present, more than 45,000 migrant workers are staying in the quarantine centres.
Kumar said that till Friday, 62,274 migrant workers have arrived in 53 special trains to Bihar. About 15 special trains carrying 18,115 migrant workers will arrive in Bihar on Saturday. He added that more than 100 special trains are expected to arrive with migrant workers in the next week.
Health Department secretary, Sanjay Kumar, said that minors coming from outside along with their parents were allowed home quarantine after proper screening by the medical team.
Till Saturday, Bihar had 580 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with five deaths reported. So far, the state has tested more than 31,000 samples and there are seven COVID-19 testing facilities in the state.A