The treatment meted out to West Bengal’s migrant workers upon their return to their home state is appalling, to say the least. As per a detailed report presented by Calcutta News, the state’s only news channel that has refused to cow down to authorities, five returning migrants have been quarantined in an abandoned public toilet in Ward No 79 of Taratala, Kolkata.
It is beyond one’s imagination how people can be forced to spend 14 days in an abandoned toilet. In such circumstances, even a healthy person can turn sick.
These labourers have contributed to the development of our country in various cities. Now, due to the pandemic they are forced to return to West Bengal after losing their livelihood; it is incumbent on the state government to have their medical tests done and quarantine them, if necessary, in habitable and healthy surroundings. Human rights activist Ranjit Sur also reported about the poor quality of food provided during the quarantine stay to these workers.
When approached, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation denied any such occurrence. But visuals of migrants being placed in the erstwhile bathroom, along with their belongings, have been captured on camera. The migrant workers have been placed in the public toilet of Taratala Godagacha, which is a densely populated area of the state capital.
As the news of returning labourers being held in the area became public, anxious and irate people took to the streets, reported Calcutta News. This public outrage also puts the common people at risk of being infected by the virus, as they would be in close proximity to the quarantined workers.
The current leader of the opposition from the Indian National Congress, Abdul Mannan, has accused the Mamata Banerjee administration of showing utter disrespect toward the individuals. He questions the decision of turning the abandoned lavatory into a quarantine centre while numerous schools and colleges of the state are standing empty at the moment, as all classes have been stalled for now.
These buildings could have been used as isolation facilities for these destitute individuals, opines the MLA. He further adds that this decision has exposed the inhumane side of the TMC government, led by the Chief Minister who is looked upon as the saviour of Maa, Mati Manush by her followers.
The indifference in the West Bengal government’s attitude toward the migrant workers became disturbingly evident when the state supremo termed the Shramik trains bringing back thousands of labourers of her own state to their homes, as ‘Corona Express’. She claimed that her state was faring better in the fight against Covid-19, but the Modi government at the centre started running the Shramik trains introducing fresh carriers of the virus to the state. But Mamata never bothered to question her ‘secular’ counterpart CMs – Uddhav Thackeray and Ashok Gehlot – on why their states were not able to care for the WB migrant workers, forcing them to rush back home.
Mamata has also come in for criticism of her handling of the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan. In another bizarre statement indicating her frustration over pointed questions directed at her, she asserted that the coronavirus is the new norm and people should learn to live with it. “It is not in my hands any more. You can sleep with corona by your side. Make it your pillow. I am sorry,” the CM said.