It Wasn’t a Train That Killed 16 Migrants in Aurangabad. It Was India’s Apathy

Coronavirus

It Wasn’t a Train That Killed 16 Migrants in Aurangabad. It Was India’s Apathy

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

There seems no light at the end of this dark tunnel for India’s poor. On Friday, 16 migrants were killed and five others injured after they were run over by a goods train in Aurangabad on Friday morning while returning to their rural homes in Madhya Pradesh. The workers had been walking for hours and exhaustion forced them to sleep on the tracks, an official said. They were run over by a goods train between Jalna and Aurangabad at around 5.15 a.m.

The men worked at an iron factory in Maharashtra’s Jalna and were planning to walk to Bhusawal, which is a distance of 157 kilometres, to catch a “Shramik Special” train to return to Madhya Pradesh.

Heartbreaking images from the scene of the accident show personal belongings of the workers – footwear, bunch of rotis – scattered on the tracks.

The Railway Ministry said that the injured were taken to Aurangabad Civil Hospital and an inquiry had been ordered into the incident. The survivors who are in shock are being counselled by the police.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced ₹5 lakh each as compensation to next of kin of the deceased in the Aurangabad mishap.

Through a series of tweets, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan requested migrants to not leave cities, stating they had made proper arrangements to ferry everyone home. “I was always with you, am, and will be. Wherever you are, please do not walk on foot and contact us as soon as possible,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his anguish at the loss of lives due to the rail accident in Aurangabad. “Have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided,” he tweeted. President Ramnath Kovind too expressed his grief, stating he was saddened beyond words and offered his thoughts and prayers to the bereaved families.

But the condolences feel like empty promises. India’s political class has failed its migrants. States have not been able to accommodate them and the Centre has been unable to provide any relief.

Journalist Barkha Dutt pointed out that walking migrants have been India’s Invisible, and the Aurangabad incident is merely a manifestation of the margins they’ve lived on.

As mass evacuation operations begin to get back stranded Indians from across the world on special flights, journalist Rajdeep Sardesai asked a very relevant question, “Gareeb ki koi sunvayi hai ya nahi?”

When trains are denied to migrants, what choice are they left with but to walk home.

Some described the mishap as an humanitarian disaster, stating that migrants are walking because adequate train arrangements have not been made and tickets are being charged. Labourers sleep on roads and railway tracks because they have no money to afford lodging places.

The lockdown then seems like a bigger threat to migrants than the pandemic. As per data compiled by the SaveLIFE Foundation, the country recorded more than 600 road accidents during the two phases and 30 per cent of road crash victims were migrants going back home. Hundred and forty lives have been lost during the last five weeks due to road crashes and over 100 deaths have been recorded across nine states alone, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu.

The shock, horror, pain and grief keeps piling on for the marginalised sections. And they just become another statistic in India’s ongoing migrant crisis.

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