India: Man lynched after reporting migrant workers to authorities over coronavirus fears

Bablu Kumar had called a government helpline saying two men in his village had not received proper testing or quarantine orders after returning to state from virus-hit Maharashtra

People sprayed with chemical disinfectant to try to protect against coronavirus in India

A man has been beaten to death in eastern India after he informed the health authorities that two of his fellow villagers had skipped coronavirus testing and quarantine, according to local media reports.

Bablu Kumar was declared dead on arrival at hospital on Monday evening after he was attacked by a group of men in the village of Madhaul in Bihar state.

Police said Mr Kumar had called a state government Covid-19 helpline and told officials that two migrant workers had returned to the village from Maharashtra in western India, but received neither testing nor quarantine notices on their arrival.

A medical team travelled to the village and screened the two men - named locally as Munna Mahto and Sudhir Kumar - before leaving. After they left, a group of men went to Bablu Kumar’s house and beat him, police said. Seven arrests have been made, including Mr Mahto and Sudhir Kumar.

The victim’s elder brother Guddu told the Hindustan Times that his brother had also been a migrant worker in Pune in Maharashtra, but that he had returned to the village two months earlier.

In the intervening period, India has been placed under a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus, the largest of its kind in the world.

And while the Indian government’s early and swift closure of international borders has been praised by health experts, its decision last week to lock down the country left hundreds of thousands of jobless migrant workers stranded without food or shelter overnight.

As labourers have returned en masse and on foot to their villages, state governments including Bihar have introduced rules stating that all migrant workers must be screened and put under quarantine for 14 days.

According to Bihar’s top civil servant on Tuesday, 50,000 migrant workers arrived back in Bihar in the previous 24 hours alone. The state government said it was providing them with healthcare, food and shelter, as well as putting them under quarantine.

But the return of so many workers, particularly in poorer states like Bihar, has led to an atmosphere of fear, distrust and recrimination. “Migrant labourers coming back here are facing social boycott,” Rakesh Jha, a local council official in Araria district told ThePrint. “Nobody wants to go near them and there is no scope for any testing here.”

In a separate incident in the state, police said a medical team was attacked by villagers after it went to screen returning migrant workers in Jehanabad district. Two vehicles, including a police patrol car, were damaged by a mob after the health workers attempted to bring in a man for testing. Police said they were planning to return to the village to make arrests.

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