At least 14 exhausted migrant workers going home due to virus curbs run over by train while they were sleeping on the tracks on Friday morning in Maharashtra state’s Aurangabad district, the railway ministry and media said.
Tens of thousands of people have been walking home from India’s key cities after losing their jobs because of a lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus since late March.
The biggest hit has been on the daily wage workers and contract laborers who have been unemployed and unpaid since day one of the lockdown. The unemployment in India has risen sharply to a whopping 27.11%, as reported by CMIE.
Two other labourers were injured in the accident which took place at 5.15 am under the Karmad Police station jurisdiction, an official said.
The workers, who were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna in central Maharashtra along rail tracks, were returning to their home state Madhya Pradesh, an official at the Karmad police station told PTI.
They were sleeping on rail tracks due to exhaustion when they were run over by the goods train coming from Jalna, around 40km from Karmad, he said.
“The labourers, working in a steel factory in Jalna, left for their home state on foot last night. They came till Karmad and slept off on the tracks as they were tired,” police officer Santosh Khetmalas said.
Fourteen workers lost their lives in the accident, while two others were injured, he said, adding three labourers who were also part of the group survived as they were sleeping some distance away from the rail tracks.
The injured are undergoing treatment, Khetmalas said.
The migrant workers, rendered jobless due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and desperate to go to their native places, were walking along the rail tracks apparently to escape police attention.
A video clip from the scene of the tragedy shows the bodies of migrant workers lying on the tracks and nearby with their meagre personal belongings scattered around.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the death of 14 migrant workers in the train accident. “Extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided,” PM Modi tweeted.
In a tweet, Ministry of railways said that “During early hours today after seeing some labourers on track, loco pilot of goods train tried to stop the train but eventually hit them between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Parbhani-Manmad section. Injureds have been taken to Aurangabad Civil Hospital. Inquiry has been ordered.”
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party, said he was “shocked by the deaths of migrant workers”. “We should be ashamed of how we treat our nation-builders,” he said.
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments announced financial aid of Rs 10 lakh – Rs 5 lakh each – to families of the deceased.
Md Irshad Ayub