Thousands of migrant workers in India have been sprayed with a bleach disinfectant after they returned home during the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Video captured by a reporter in the northern city of Bareilly shows migrants forced to sit on the ground after they arrived, as three people in protective gear doused them with the spray.
The disinfectant is usually used to sanitize buses.
Millions of migrant workers in India have been attempting to make their way home after the government locked down the entire country a week ago. Many of the workers were left without food and shelter and had no option but to make long and often deadly journeys home.
The migrants in Bareilly, which is a city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, were told by officials when they arrived that they would be put on a bus and given food.
Instead, they were sprayed with the disinfectant, which contained a mixture of water and sodium hypochlorite, according to the Times of India. Sodium hypochlorite is widely used as a bleaching agent in the textile, detergents, and paper industries.
As many as 5,000 people have been "publicly sprayed" when they arrived in Bareilly alone, according to Ashok Gautam, a senior officer in charge of COVID-19 operations in Uttar Pradesh, who spoke to CNN.
“We sprayed them here as part of the disinfection drive, we don't want them to be carriers for the virus and it could be hanging on their clothes, now all borders have been sealed so this won't happen again," Gautam said.
Gautam’s actions were strongly condemned by Lav Agarwal, senior official at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Agarwal said that local officials involved in the incident were “reprimanded,” adding that spraying migrant workers was not a "required" policy in the country. Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath called the spraying of migrants "rude and indecent" and called for those responsible to be punished.
The public spraying in Bareilly is just the latest questionable response from officials and law enforcement to the lockdown in India. Police have been embarrassing lockdown offenders, forcing them to do squats, push-ups, or road sweeping in public.
The police have also been accused of beating a man to death as he went to a store to buy some milk during the lockdown.
Cover: A group of daily wage laborers walk to return to their villages as the city comes under lockdown in Prayagraj, India, Monday, March 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)