After at least least 10 migrant passengers have been found dead in ‘Shramik Special’ trains since Monday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has send notices to the Union Home Secretary, the Railways and the governments of Gujarat and Bihar over hardships faced by migrants onboard trains due to delay in services and lack of food and water allegedly leading to sickness and death of some of them.
The NHRC has issued notices to the chief secretaries of Gujarat and Bihar, Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) and Union Home Secretary seeking detailed reports.
In a statement, the NHRC observed that the “state has failed to protect the lives of the poor labourers onboard the trains”.
The commission has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that the trains which are ferrying migrant labourers are not only starting late but are taking many additional days to reach destination, it said.
“In one of the reports, it is alleged that many migrant labourers lost lives during their journey by train due to longer duration and no arrangements for drinking water and food etc,” the statement said.
Reportedly, two persons died in Muzaffarpur and one each in Danapur, Sasaram, Gaya, Begusarai and Jehanabad in Bihar, including a 4-year-old boy. All of them reportedly died due to hunger.
“In another incident, a train reportedly started from Surat district in Gujarat for Siwan in Bihar on May 16 and reached Bihar on May 25, after nine days,” the rights panel said.
The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to gross violations of human rights. The aggrieved families have suffered irrevocable loss, it said.
The chief secretaries of the government of Gujarat and Bihar are expected to specifically inform as to what steps were taken to ensure basic facilities, including medical help for the migrant labourers who boarded the trains, it said.
The response from all the authorities is expected within four weeks positively, the statement added.
The lockdown imposed since March 25 has been extremely difficult for migrants as they were left stranded in different parts of the country without any source of livelihood and food.
As extreme heat, hunger and dehydration add to the woes of returning migrant workers, at least 10 passengers have been found dead in ‘Shramik Special’ trains since Monday and they included a woman whose toddler son was seen trying to wake her up in a heart wrenching scene at a railway platform in Bihar.
While, in yet another shocking incident amidst the migrant crisis, the body of a 38-year-old migrant worker was reportedly discovered in the toilet of a Shramik Special train at Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi Railway Station on Thursday evening.
It is presumed that the man died days ago, while the train completed a round-trip trip, before the body being discovered by railway workers while sanitising the coaches.
While a few deaths on board the non-air conditioned trains were also reported earlier after they were launched on May 1 to ferry migrant labourers to their home states, the Railways on Wednesday said most of the deceased had pre-existing health conditions.
Nine of the deaths on different trains heading to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar occurred since Monday but were reported by the Railways and civil authorities in the two states on Wednesday.
A video about the toddler son tweeted by Sanjay Yadav, an aide to RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, and which has gone viral, shows the child walking unsteadily up to his mother’s body, tugging at the blanket placed over her, and when failing to wake her up, covering his own head with it.
As the mother, who was identified as Uresh Khatoon(35), still lay motionless, he wobbles away from her, announcements continuing in the background about the arrival and departure of trains at Muzaffarpur that would bring in tens of thousands of jobless migrant workers hit by coronavirus lockdown to Bihar.
“This small child doesn’t know that the bedsheet with which he is playing is the shroud of his mother who has gone into eternal sleep. This mother died of hunger and thirst after being on a train for four days. Who is responsible for these deaths on trains? Shouldn’t the opposition ask uncomfortable questions?” tweeted Yadav.