Trail of Death at Muzaffarpur Station: A Child Tries to Awaken His Dead Mother, a Father His Toddler

Social Commentary

Trail of Death at Muzaffarpur Station: A Child Tries to Awaken His Dead Mother, a Father His Toddler

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

After media reports of migrants walking hundreds of kilometers and not having adequate food and water, the government finally caved in and started running a fleet of “Shramik trains” to get them back home. However, the long rail journeys are not shorn of absolute chaos, as no less than 40 trains have had to be diverted to faraway places and passengers have not been provided food and water in the scorching heat, even leading to around 10 deaths.

The gut-wrenching video of a child trying to wake up his mother who died of hunger and dehydration is bound to shake one’s conscience. There is little doubt that we have colossally failed to take care of the most vulnerable in society.

In another shocking incident reported by Hindustan Times featuring Shramik trains, a four-and-a-half-year-old son of migrants based in Delhi died at the railway station while his father desperately hunted for milk that he believed would save the child.

Maqsood Alam worked as a painter until the lockdown left him jobless, forcing the family to leave their rented accommodation in Delhi and head back home. Accompanied by his wife and son, Alam had hoped to reach his village in West Champaran on Monday, when Eid would be celebrated. The child had fallen ill because of the oppressive heat and by the time it reached Muzaffarpur junction, his condition had deteriorated considerably. “I ran pillar to post searching for some milk for my son. The administration took too long to respond and the child lost the battle for life,” alleged Alam.

“The child had died before the train pulled up at the platform here and we rushed as soon as we got information,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Railway, Ramakant Upadhyay. The story aptly angered social media and there was biting criticism towards those who had left migrants on their own.

“This and several such visuals don’t stir our conscience? Can we still sleep in our peaceful abodes ? A human being is not killed! Humanity is being murdered under our eyes,” said Zafar Sareshwala, Former Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University.

Another Twitter user, Ram Subramanian asked why trains weren’t running as they did earlier. “Why don’t we allow them to travel back to their homes in peace? What sadistic pleasure are we deriving from the suffering of the migrant class, the most poor and hopeless section of India?” he asked.

At a time when around 40 trains had to be diverted and around 10 people have lost their lives, one would expect sensitivity, if not answers and accountability from the Railway Minister. But Piyush Goyal was busy sharing “intricate work of music and art” from West Bengal on his Twitter account, which came under heavy criticism.

“Do you feel any regret?” asked journalist Vidya Krishnan.

Is this the priority of the moment, asked another user.

We couldn’t take care of migrants when they were in other states, the least we can do is ensure they reach home safely with food to eat and water to drink.