Bhopal: Battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the Madhya Pradesh government finds itself in a controversy amid allegations that a migrant-labourer couple and their children were quarantined at a toilet in Guna.
Images of the couple having a meal inside the toilet went viral over the weekend, after the Congress took on the state’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for allegedly mistreating the family.
However, the local authorities have denied the allegations, saying the family, who returned to Todara village Saturday, was kept on the premises of a school after their relatives refused to let them in.
Even so, they have not questioned the veracity of the images, saying the husband had got drunk and parked himself inside the toilet.
A labourer returns
The man in the images has been identified as Bhaiyalal Sahariya, a manual labourer.
Sahariya and his wife are believed to have travelled to the state’s Rajgarh district, with their children, to work as labourers. After completing the job, they returned to Todara village Saturday evening.
Self-quarantining protocol amid the Covid-19 pandemic dictates that the family should have been isolated at home. However, the Congress has alleged that the family was quarantined inside a toilet.
It has been alleged that the family was moved to the main school building after the images stoked a row on social media.
However, the local administration has denied the allegations.
Jitendra Singh Dhakre, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Raghogarh town in Guna, told ThePrint that the family had been kept at the school since their arrival. “However, he got drunk and somehow sneaked into the toilet. He also had food there. His wife was with him,” he added.
When asked how he managed to acquire liquor, Dhakre said they were looking into it, adding that “strict action” will be taken against any official found to have erred.
Guna District Collector S. Vishwanath echoed Dhakre’s claims, saying the family had to be quarantined at the school because their relatives refused to take them in.
“This person and his family had migrated from their village a few years ago. In light of the coronavirus epidemic and lockdown, they could not get their wages, so returned to their native village,” he added.
“On Saturday evening, when they tried to visit some relatives, the villagers stopped them from doing so, citing fears of coronavirus infection. Their relatives also refused to accommodate them in their house due to a lack of space,” Dhakre said.
The family, he claimed, was then moved onto the premises of a local school Saturday night.
“On Sunday morning, the anganwadi worker informed us about their arrival. We conducted their medical checkup. On Sunday afternoon, this person came from somewhere with country liquor. After consuming it, he went inside the toilet,” the collector added. “We have not quarantined this person. Our effort will be to make proper arrangements for this family to stay in the village itself.”
Political exchange ensues
The alleged mistreatment of the family has also become a political hot potato, with the opposition Congress lashing out at Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and former party colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia, the former Guna MP who is now in the BJP.
“Forced to eat inside the toilet… This is an image from BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s Lok Sabha constituency Guna where a poor family is being quarantined inside the toilet. Those who used to hit the street on mundane issues have now been exposed in public’s eye,” the Congress tweeted Sunday.
शौचालय में भोजन करने को मजबूर,
—सिंधिया के लोकसभा क्षेत्र की तस्वीर:
बीजेपी नेता सिंधिया के लोकसभा क्षेत्र गुना की ये तस्वीर है जिसमें गरीब परिवार को शौचालय में क्वारेंटाइन किया गया है।
वो जो बात-बात पर सड़क पर उतरते थे,
इस बात पर जनता की नज़रों से उतर गये। pic.twitter.com/N3B3tLiTXV
— MP Congress (@INCMP) May 4, 2020
“Humanity itself has died during Shivraj (regime),” the party said in another tweet. “Shivraj ji, why are you not feeling any shame at all? Be a little afraid of god.”
शिव’राज में मर गई इंसानियत,
—शौचालय में भोजन कर रहे पीडित :
गुना जिले के टोडर ग्राम में मजदूर परिवार को स्कूल के शौचालय में क्वॉरेंटाइन किया गया है। पति पत्नी शौचालय में खाना खाने को है मजबूर हैं।
बिल्कुल लज्जा नहीं आती..?
“भगवान से थोड़ा-थोड़ा तो डरो” pic.twitter.com/zW8kosdr1E
— MP Congress (@INCMP) May 3, 2020
The BJP has made light of the allegations, describing them as a “distortion”. “The Congress is interpreting this in a distorted way. No person with common sense can… ask anyone person to stay inside a toilet,” said BJP spokesperson and former MP Prof. Chintamani Malviya.
“Then again, no toilet is big enough for someone to live in. There is no truth in the allegations. The district administration has ordered an inquiry and the entire truth will be revealed after the investigation.”
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked much havoc in Madhya Pradesh. According to the health bulletin released Sunday evening, the state has 2,837 Covid-19 patients, including 1,568 in Indore, 532 in Bhopal and 156 in Ujjain.
The pandemic has cost 156 lives in the state so far — 76 in Indore, 30 in Ujjain and 15 in capital Bhopal. However, 798 patients have also made a full recovery, including 350 in Indore, 237 in Bhopal, and 18 in Ujjain.
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