The video was shot in the district of Bareilly-approximately 270 km from Lucknow
Close your and your children's eyes, order protective gear staff as a group of men, women and children squatting on the lane. First comes a disinfectant spray and many cry as their eyes sting.
The disturbing video of "disinfected" migrants emerged from Uttar Pradesh on a day when the Supreme Court took up a petition seeking relief for the thousands of people walking in the 21-day lockdown to their home states.
The video was shot in the district of Bareilly-approximately 270 km from Lucknow.
The migrants' batch in the video had returned to UP over the weekend after they had arranged special buses for them. Some policemen are among those watching the "desinfect," reports NDTV.
A man can be heard saying in the clip, "Apni ankhen band kar lo. Bacchon ki ankhen band kar lo (please shut your eyes, also close eyes of the kids)."
After the clip led to criticism of the district administration, an official said, "The migrants were sprayed with a mix of chlorine and water... No chemical solution was used. We asked them to keep their eyes shut."
He added, "We did not mean to be inhuman... It was important to sanitise everyone and there was a huge rush as large number of people had returned. So we did what we thought was best."
While they deny dehumanising the migrants and their children, the video gives an impression that batches are being mass-sprayed.
The clip was investigated, Bareilly District Magistrate said in a tweet. "Under Chief Minister's Office's supervision, those affected are being treated. The civic body and fire brigade team were asked to sanitise buses... but they did this because they were overzealous. Action has been initiated against officials concerned," he wrote.
Opposition leaders have attacked the district administration, calling the action "inhuman". "I appeal to the government in UP... all of us are fighting together against this crisis (coronavirus). Please don't indulge into such inhuman actions. The labourers have already suffered a lot. Don't spray chemicals on them. This won't protect them... rather it would harm their health," Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in Hindi this afternoon.
In a series of tweets, former UP chief minister and BSP chief Mayawati wrote, "During this stringent nationwide lockdown, numerous pictures have emerged of injustice from across the country... but spraying of disinfectants on migrants in Bareilly is an example of sheer cruelty, injustice. The government should pay attention immediately."
"It would have been better if the centre, instead of leaving these laborers stranded, without food and shelter, ran some special trains for them... to make things easy for them," she added.
Lakhs of migrants were left stranded in various parts of the country after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a 21-day nationwide lockdown last week to combat coronavirus or Covid-19, which has infected over 1,000 people in the country, killing at least 29.
Migrants crowded at the borders and at inter-state bus stations, offering a terrifying image at a time of social distancing is crucial to preventing rapid coronavirus spread.
Heartbreaking videos have shown many of them trying to cover hundreds of kilometers of travel on foot. A 38-year-old man died on UP highway Saturday after walking 200 kilometers from Delhi.
The state governments in UP and Delhi scheduled special buses over the weekend to facilitate their journeys to their hometowns. However, a 14-day quarantine is compulsory in state-run camps for the labourers returning to UP and Bihar.
The centre asked states on Sunday to seal borders and prevent migrant migration in the midst of repeated PM Modi appeals to ensure social distance.