Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

Coronavirus: In Bareilly, migrants returning home sprayed with 'disinfectant'

A screen grab of healthcare workers bathing migrants before entering the town of Bareilly on Monday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Omar Rashid LUCKNOW: 30 March 2020 13:18 IST
Updated: 30 March 2020 17:48 IST

It's more important to save them...getting wet does not mean much, says nodal officer in-charge of COVID-19 in Bareilly

Migrant labourers returning to their homes from cities were forced by the administration in Bareilly to take an open bath in groups with disinfectant before they were allowed entry into the district.

As per a footage of the incident, a group of migrants, including women, were seen squatting on the road near a checkpoint in Bareilly as officials in full protection gear spray a solution through a hose pipe on them. The migrants are not only clothed but also have their luggage strapped onto their bodies even as they get drenched. While at least two officials film the incident, one of them can be heard asking the migrants to keep their eyes closed.

In Bareilly, migrants given bath with 'disinfectant' on the road
 

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The nodal officer in-charge of COVID-19 in Bareilly, Ashok Gautam, confirmed that the administration did bathe the migrants with disinfectant, chlorine mixed with water, but clarified it was not a chemical solution.

Mr. Gautam said the administration had resorted to spraying the migrants with the disinfectants after the huge rush of incoming migrants who arrived in special buses run by the government. “We tried to keep them safe, asked them to shut their eyes,” he said.

Mr. Gautam also justified the step, saying it was necessary to eradicate the possible spread of the disease.

“It's natural they will get wet. It was out attempt to get the clothes wet as it would be better so that whatever signs of virus possibly on it (clothes) will get destroyed,” Mr. Gautam told The Hindu.

“It's more important to save them...getting wet does not mean much,” he said.

The official also said the bathing of migrants would not happen again as their rush into the district had stopped.

Ashutosh Parashari, Medical Officer, Bareilly, said sodium hypochlorite solution was sprayed on the migrants. Sodium hypochlorite is commonly used as a disinfectant.  "It does not have such hazards...that's why it was used," he said.

Sodium hypochlorite used on migrants?

Chief Fire Officer, Chandra Mohan Sharma, said sodium hypochlorite was used to sanitize places in the districts, including the bus stand where the migrants were given a bathe. The bus station was sanitized because it had seen big crowds of migrants over the past two-three days, said the official, while admitting that the sodium hypochlorite was harmful for human bodies.

"Because it has chemicals, it is strictly prohibited to spray on human bodies. We have directions to spray it on non-living things like metal surfaces, cardboards and closed walls," he said when asked by reporters if the solution could be sprayed on the humans.


 "The chemical is hazardous. It has its own properties, naturally it can cause harm but until it comes in direct contact with human ears or eyes," he said.


 Mr. Sharma said he was probing the incident but claimed prima facie that the chemical was not used on the migrants, even as footage showed that the migrants were made to squat and instructed to close their eyes before being sprayed with the disinfectant.

 The migrants may have inadvertently exposed to the fog of the chemical but didn't come in direct contact, he said, adding that the migrants may have reached the fogging site while they were waiting for a bus or moving past it.

District Magistrate orders action against officials

District Magistrate Bareilly, Nitish Kumar, has ordered action against officials who forced migrants to take bath in the open.

Mr. Kumar said "over active" Bareilly municipal corporation and fire brigade teams who were instructed to sanitize  the buses ended up doing this.

The affected people are being treated under the direction of the chief medical officer, said the DM. The CMO did not take phone calls.

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