Modi apologizes for lockdown as thousands of migrant workers flee Delhi

New Delhi, Mar 29 (efe-epa).- India’s prime minister on Sunday apologized to the nation for the restrictions he has imposed to slow the advance of the coronavirus amid attempts by thousands of migrant workers to flee the capital to their states in the absence of work.

“First of all, let me seek forgiveness from all the countrymen (…) I had to take certain decisions which have put you in lot of difficulty, especially when I look at my poor brothers and sisters. I definitely feel that they must be thinking, what kind of a prime minister is this who has placed us in this difficulty,” Narendra Modi said in his monthly radio program “Mann ki baat” (From the Heart).

“Possibly,” he continued, “many would be angry at me for being locked in their homes, but there was no other way to wage a war against coronavirus for a country like India with a population of 1.3 billion.”

“It is a battle of life and death and we have to win it, therefore such strong measures were absolutely necessary,” he added, in reference to the 21-day nationwide lockdown that began on Wednesday.

Modi’s apology came after several days of thousands of migrant workers trying to leave New Delhi, and other large cities, for their native states in the absence of work due to the suspension of economic activity.

Photos broadcast by local TV channels showed thousands gathered at New Delhi’s bus stations despite the suspension of all intercity buses after the government of the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) announced a fleet of 1,000 buses to transport the stranded migrant workers back to their towns and villages.

The UP government said that the workers will be placed under quarantine once they return to the state.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who also arranged 100 buses on Saturday for migrant workers attempting to walk home, urged those leaving the capital to stay back, saying his government had arranged to give them shelter and food.

“Still, I appeal all to remain where they are. We have made arrangements for stay and food. Please stay at home. Do not go back to your village, otherwise the objective of the lockdown will fail,” Kejriwal said in a press conference.

The government of the western state of Maharashtra, where the country’s financial capital, Mumbai, is located, also echoed the same sentiments on Sunday and appealed to migrant workers not to leave the state, assuring them that the authorities will take care of their food and stay.

Without directly referring to this situation, Modi said that those not adhering to the lockdown have “not yet understood the gravity of the situation.”

“To such people, my only appeal is, it will become difficult to save themselves from coronavirus, if they continue ignoring the lockdown,” he warned.

“I came to know about some incidents where some people are misbehaving with people who are home-quarantined or people being tested for COVID-19,” the Indian prime minister said.

“Such people are not criminals, but they are only probables or affected ones (…) behaving badly with them is not justified,” he added.

Until Sunday, India had recorded 867 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths from the disease, according to the latest data of the health ministry.

“We will meet for Mann ki baat once again next month and by then we would have won the war,” Modi signed off. EFE-EPA


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