The events that took place in Bandra yesterday have the potential to turn Mumbai into a New York. The island city is already struggling to contain the virus as Mumbai alone has more than 1700 cases. In a blatant violation of lockdown, thousands of people assembled at Bandra station purportedly to travel to their native places, however, on a closer look this was nothing but a planned conspiracy by the NCP in cahoots with the Shiv Sena and INC. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was as usual caught unaware despite the fact that the congregation happened just a couple of kilometres away from his residence, Matoshree.
As a migrant residing in Mumbai, I was perhaps lucky to have been able to travel to my native place before the nationwide lockdown came into force. I honestly thought that Mumbai will not be one of the worst affected cities as Shiv Sena is omnipresent in the city. It is impossible to travel a couple of kilometres in Mumbai without coming in touch with a Shiv Sena shakha. Unfortunately, I have been proved wrong as I now realise that Uddhav is no Balasaheb Thackeray and Mumbai is a ticking time bomb which is soon going to explode if punitive measures aren’t taken.
As per Aaditya Thackeray, thousands of people assembled at the Bandra station so that they could travel home to their native place. What’s perplexing is that hardly anyone had any sorts of luggage with them. A normal person seeking to travel on a long-distance train is bound to have some luggage but that was not the case here.
Mumbai's Bandra West railway station flooded with migrant labourers. Maharashtra govt claims migrants wanted to go back home as they expected the #lockdown to end on Tuesday
— Know The Nation (@knowthenation) April 14, 2020
Now let’s take a step back and have a look at one of the major blunders of Uddhav Thackeray which surprisingly escaped the prying eyes of the media. Before the nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Modi requested for a Janata Curfew on 22nd March which was a Sunday. People across the country heeded to the call of the Prime Minister and stayed indoors. Some state governments like the Gujarat government acted smartly, and as soon as the Janata Curfew ended at 9 PM, the state governments immediately announced a lockdown in their respective states, thus not allowing any movement. Now, the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown on 24th March and by that time some states had already taken the decision to impose a lockdown.
Maharashtra too announced a lockdown but Uddhav Thackeray thought it was prudent to give a notice before the lockdown as he announced on 20th March (Friday) that the state will go into a lockdown from the next week. What happened next is likely to have greatly hampered India’s fight against the virus as immediately after Uddhav’s announcement, huge crowds of passengers thronged the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla Terminus) seeking to return to their respective hometowns.
Now any person residing in Mumbai knows that the long-distance trains to Gujarat, UP and Bihar usually originate from Kurla Terminus and Mumbai Central and not from Bandra Terminus. Hence, on March 21, the migrant crowd was seeking to return home assembled at the Kurla Terminus and not at Bandra.
Mumbai Guardian Minister and Shiv Sena scion shamelessly blamed the Centre for the crisis as he blamed the Union government for refusing to take a call on arranging a way back home for migrant labour. Now, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh claimed that since the Prime Minister in the morning announced an extension of the lockdown, there was a panic among the migrants as they thought that PM Modi had ordered the opening of state borders.
Now here’s the thing, Uddhav Thackeray had announced a lockdown on April 11 itself, three days before PM Modi announced an extension. Going by Aaditya’s logic, the crowd should have assembled on April 11 as irrespective of what the Centre decides, Maharashtra was to remain in a lockdown till April 30.
The current situation at Bandra Station, now dispersed or even the rioting in Surat is a result of the Union Govt not being able to take a call on arranging a way back home for migrant labour. They don’t want food or shelter, they want to go back home
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) April 14, 2020
Migrant workers who gathered near Bandra station in Mumbai may have thought PM Modi had ordered opening of state borders: Maha home minister Anil Deshmukh
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) April 14, 2020
Now the place where the crowd congregated is of great significance. For the uninitiated, almost every local station in Mumbai has two parts: East and West. The crowd congregated in Bandra West near Jama Masjid. Just a couple of hundred metres away from the Bandra station in Bandra East there is a police station and such large gathering couldn’t have happened without the tacit support of the state government.
Bandra East is where Mumbai’s financial pulse is located as the Bandra Kurla Complex is located there. But before the BKC, Bandra East is plagued by garbage and people living in slums and if there was even one corona positive patient among the crowd, Mumbai is going to face a disaster of humongous proportions. More importantly, Bandra station is just 5 kilometres away from Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi which is already plagued by the virus.
Migrant workers left their footwear at Bandra East near station. Mirgants on road, they want to go back to their native places. No more wants stay back in Mumbai during extended lockdown period. @NewIndianXpress pic.twitter.com/TsoRaYZ6Lh
— Sudhir Suryawanshi (@ss_suryawanshi) April 14, 2020
Now, the crowd couldn’t have assembled without being incited. A certain Vinay Dubey was inciting people through his posts on social media platforms. The same Vinay Dubey gladly boasts on Facebook of meeting the state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on April 10. It turns out, Vinay Dubey had earlier fought elections on an NCP ticket as he unsuccessfully contested the UP elections in 2012 from the seat of Varanasi North.
Thanks to people like Dubey, among the crowd there is a chance that some people had genuinely assembled with the intention to return home. Even without a lockdown, this is the season of harvest and with Ramadan around the corner, there is a great surge in migrants leaving for their respective hometowns and spend some time with their families. Of course, Uddhav Thackeray would have been aware of these facts but he chose not to act.
#Breaking | STUNNING TWIST TO BANDRA INCIDENT.
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) April 14, 2020
Alert Alert Alert!!!
After Today's Shocking bandra incidence…This person Vinay Dubey is appealing labours to gather at Kurla Terminus on 18th of April.
— SwaG (@swanandgangal) April 14, 2020
— Team Ruthless 😷😷 (@Ruthlessindia) April 14, 2020
Please do not curse migrant workers for their desire to go home. Even in absence of Corona, this was the season for them to go home. Please remember majority of such people are Seasonal migrant who go back to help their families in harvest season. They work in their own fields.
— Yashwant Deshmukh 🇮🇳 (@YRDeshmukh) April 14, 2020
Aaditya Thackeray ended up exposing his father’s government as he did a massive flip-flop. On March 29, the Shiv Sena scion tweeted that following the orders of Uddhav Thackeray to help the migrant workers, the target is to “stop migration, save lives”. However, immediately as the news of Bandra trickled in, Aaditya wasted no time to blame the Modi government as he claimed that Uddhav had been constantly raising the point of allowing the trains to run for 24 more hours to allow the migrant workers to travel home in the video conference between the CMs and the PM.
Two absolutely contrasting tweets by @AUThackeray. On 29th March he said @uddhavthackeray has appealed to migrants to not go anywhere and they will arrange for food,shelter. Today after the horrifying gathering he says well we were asking for trains all along for migrants to move pic.twitter.com/9lQGB8QtLf
— Megha Prasad (@MeghaSPrasad) April 14, 2020
Now, it’s a separate thing that the Prime Minister declined the request as he said, “It will be a big mess. India is for everyone, let them stay where they are, help them as your own citizens.” But why was the father-son duo tweeting about how Maharashtra is helping the migrants in the state set-up relief camps when all they wanted is to push the migrants to their native places?
On the PM's meeting with CMs on 11th, Uddhav Thackeray had requested for migrant workers to be sent back, but Modi had declined, said 'It will be a big mess. India is for everyone, let them stay where they are, help them as your own citizens'.
Revealed by Assam health minister.
— Raju Das | ৰাজু দাস (@rajudasonline) April 14, 2020
During the Maharashtra elections, the Shiv Sena faced a major embarrassment from their stronghold of Bandra East. Shiv Sena fielded the then Mayor of Mumbai, Vishwanath Mahadeshwar thinking of scoring an easy win, but a party rebel ended up contesting the same seat which cut the votes of Shiv Sena and saw the seat fall to Zeeshan Siddiqui of INC who is the son of Baba Siddiqui of the Iftar party fame. Now, Zeeshan Siddiqui has ended up exposing the state government as he claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has not provided any food to the migrant workers. He further added that he specifically requested the state government to help the migrants but to no avail and he has been helping the migrants in his personal capacity.
While, Uddhav Thackeray claims that more than six lakh migrant workers have been taken care of, Zeeshan Siddiqui claims that no such help is provided to migrants residing in Badra West and East. Siddiqui added that he and his father in their personal capacity has helped 45,000 migrants with food and ration as they haven’t received any ration from the state government.
Govt has not provided any food to the migrant workers, we had to provide it on our own: Zeeshan Siddique.
Details by TIMES NOW's Aruneel & Kajal. pic.twitter.com/mPVgc6XvLj
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) April 14, 2020
Uddhav ever since the outbreak of the virus in Mumbai, has committed one blunder after the another as he and his son have decided to focus more on their PR rather than helping the state battle the highly contagious virus.
It seems that even the father-son duo aren’t on the same page, let alone the three-party alliance. Uddhav during his address to the state blamed the Bandra fiasco on fake news directly contradicting Aaditya’s stance of blaming the Centre. Of course, this may well be a case of monkey balancing by playing good cop, bad cop.
If this gross mismanagement continues, it is highly likely that Maharashtra will also be under lockdown for the month of May. Uddhav has already stated that he is ordering the state to be under a lockdown “at least” till April 30 as he emphasised on “at least”. India’s road to recovery post the pandemic has to travel through India’s financial capital, Mumbai. It is safe to say that won’t be happening.
Mumbai with an approximate population of 25 million is crammed up and is a happy hunting ground for the coronavirus. If this continues, Mumbai will emerge as the epicentre of the virus leaving behind New York.
Mumbai today is crying out for Balasaheb Thackeray as his heir has utterly failed to control the virus. Uddhav Thackeray has no idea what is going to hit Mumbai and the subsequent economic consequences of the same. It seems that the tiger can only roar in ‘Saamana’, as it has been belled by the NCP and the INC.