INDIA

Outrage after migrant workers in India forcibly sprayed with disinfectant

Thousands of migrant workers are trying to get back home during India's lockdown, and officials spray a group of them with corrosive disinfectant. Photos from Twitter.
Thousands of migrant workers are trying to get back home during India's lockdown, and officials spray a group of them with corrosive disinfectant. Photos from Twitter.

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Authorities have called for an investigation after a video of migrant workers in India being doused with bleach disinfectant went viral.

A journalist at The Times of India first published the video on Twitter on 30 March. To date, it has been viewed over 1.2 million times. It shows three workers in protective equipment using hoses to spray chemical disinfectant at a group of people sitting on the ground. Police officers watch, and one person wearing a protective mask takes a photo of the scene.

The video was taken in Bareilly, a district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The disinfectant the health workers are using is a strong chemical solution normally used to disinfect buses. After the video provoked outrage online, the district magistrate Nitish Kumar said on Twitter that action would be taken ‘against those responsible for this’. He also said that those who had been disinfected were under medical surveillance.

The World Health Organisation has made it clear that spraying disinfectant substances on the body will not kill the virus if it has already entered the body.

India imposed a nationwide lockdown on 25 March, leaving tens of millions of migrant workers who had travelled across the country to find work stranded hundreds of miles from home.

Work dried up and public transport was shut down. In subsequent days, the country saw an exodus of migrant workers from cities trying to return to their villages, prompting different states to carry out these ‘disinfection drives’.

India’s government urged states across the country to seal their borders. Now a week into the country’s 21-day lockdown, millions of day labourers are still stuck in cities and relying on free meals provided by charities.