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Thackeray assured the state’s full support to migrant workers and warned those trying to spread rumours and fake news

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told the migrant workers stranded in Mumbai, on Tuesday, after they thronged near the Bandra railway station, that a lockdown is not a “lock-up” and appealed to them to face the “challenge” of the coronavirus pandemic by staying back. He assured the state’s full support, and warned those trying to spread rumours and fake news that the state government would not spare the guilty.

Social distancing went for a toss when over 3,000 stranded, hungry and angry migrant labourers from different parts of India thronged near the Bandra railway station on Tuesday demanding that they should be given transportation to return to their native places immediately. The Mumbai Police, which attempted to cajole them from jamming there in such large numbers, resorted to a mild lathi charge when sections of the restive hordes threatened to go out of control.

In a direct appeal to the migrants, Thackeray spoke to them during a live webcast, briefly in Hindi while appealing to the migrants.

“These workers were told the trains will resume services from April 14 and hence they gathered. I appeal to them not to believe rumours,” he said. “The challenge is to tackle coronavirus by staying back. This is Maharashtra and we are one country.”

Thackeray also spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the wake of the protest by the migrant workers yesterday and told that he has been speaking to leaders across political spectrum in view of the coronavirus crisis. The chief minister said that the leaders of all political parties were together in time of the current crisis.

“Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi (a few days ago), I spoke to Home Minister Amit Shah today. I have spoken to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (NCP president) Sharad Pawar is also with us, (MNS leader) Raj Thackeray is also with us,” he said.

Thackeray warned that his government will not allow anybody to play with the sentiments of poor migrant workers and disturb the law and order situation in the state. “I will not let the situation go out of control,” he said, adding that the culprits will be punished.

“We, Indians, can face this challenge together,” he added.

Thackeray added the state government was working on how to lift the lockdown and resume industrial activities, admitting that the rising number of cases in Mumbai and Pune was a cause of concern.

“Maharashtra has conducted the maximum number of coronavirus tests and has asked the Centre to allow experimental plasma treatment”, he said.

Yesterday at Bandra, the jostling sea of humanity, including women, virtually caught the police unaware and sounded alarm bells among the state health authorities struggling to keep people indoors and avoid crowding in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the reasons for the sudden crowding were not clear, there were some rumours of food packets to be distributed by local groups and of some long-distance trains being started from Bandra on Tuesday night.

Maharashtra reported 2687 positive cases of COVID-19, with 17,00 cases in Mumbai alone. 178 fatalities have been reported in the state so far. Dailyhunt

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