Police clash with crowds as India eases coronavirus curbs

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By SJA Jafri (Bureau Chief)

AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI: Indian police fired tear gas at a crowd of protesting migrant workers in Gujarat and launched baton charges against hundreds of people queuing at liquor stores in New Delhi, even as the first steps were being taken to relax a coronavirus lockdown.

The world’s largest lockdown, in force since March 25, is slowly being eased in some areas with fewer infections, although it will stay in place at least until May 17, the government said last week.

Although officials say rigid restrictions on work and travel are key to beating the virus, the shutdown has endangered the economic survival of many, including an estimated 140 million migrant labourers banned from going home.

About 1,000 stranded workers seeking help to return to homes in states across India gathered on the outskirts of Gujarat’s city of Surat and threw stones at police who ordered them to disperse, an official said.

“We have detained 80 people so far and are in the process of identifying more,” Surat’s police chief A.M. Muniya told reporters.

Media partner shared a video showing police firing tear gas into a large group of men standing inside a lane lined with shuttered shops.

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