Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said sorry to Indians for his 21-day coronavirus lockdown, saying it is harsh but necessary to beat the pandemic. His words come amid shocking images of police violently enforcing the restrictions, which came into effect Wednesday with just four hours' notice.
“I apologise for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people,” Prime Minister Modi said in his monthly address, broadcast by state radio. “I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.”
Tuesday's unprecedented lockdown order to keep India's 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies, is meant to prevent the spread of the virus from surging and overwhelming India's already strained health care system.
Health officials have confirmed 867 cases of the coronavirus, including 25 deaths. Experts have said local spreading is inevitable.
Indians have struggled to comply with the coronavirus lockdown, that has caused tens of thousands of people, mostly young male day labourers but also families, to flee their New Delhi homes, and has effectively put millions out of work.
The restrictions have made provisions for people to leave their homes to buy essentials such as food, but images on news and social networks showed police striking would-be shoppers in the streets with batons in the southern state of Kerala, the financial hub of Mumbai and New Delhi.
A video shot by a passerby showed a policeman using his baton to smash the interior of a meat shop in the capital's Zakir Nagar neighbourhood. The shop’s owner said police also beat him up and told him he shouldn't have opened his shop.
Video footage also shows police carrying out humiliating punishments on those who venture outside, including making people do push-ups or frog-hop home.
New Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal has denied that police were beating people.
Similar scenes occurred in India's northeast, an eight-state region where only two of the country's COVID-19 cases have been reported.
One person died in the state of West Bengal after being beaten up by police for going out to buy milk during the lockdown.
Long walk home
The governments of New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have arranged buses to bring the migrant workers back to their home villages.
But Delhi police officer Rahul Katara told Associated Press that passengers were facing difficulties getting to their destinations.
“There are not enough buses, and those that make it across the border to Uttar Pradesh are often being turned away by local district officials, so bus drivers are dropping passengers off as near as they can to their destinations,” Katara said.
Many more workers have been forced to make their long journeys home by foot, many of them in flip flops.
R.K. Sharma, a 53-year-old carpenter, was not able to board a bus. He faced several days' walk to return to his native Jharkhand state in the east.
“Its not so long a distance," Sharma said. “I’ll reach in two or three days.”
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.