Mumbai: A disturbing number of lives have been lost on board the Shramik Special trains that have been run across India. According to the data from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) that Hindustan Times has accessed, almost 80 persons have died between May 9 and May 27.
According to the data from the RPF, as many as 3,840 trains have been run across different states between May 1 (when the train service was first launched) to May 27. These trains have ferried over five million labourers stuck in different cities.
The HT report says that the deaths were recorded from May 9 until May 27 across several zones including the East Central Railway zone, North Eastern Railway zone, Northern Railway Zone and North Central Railway zone. The data shows that the ages of the dead ranged from 4 years to 85. The list also mentions the co-morbidities or accidents that may have caused the deaths in a few cases. The RPF did not make data between May 1 and May 8 available.
A further breakdown of the data shows that as many as 18 deaths were recorded in the North Eastern Railway zone, 19 in North Central zone and 13 in East Coast Railway zone. Nearly 80% of total Shramik trains are destined for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and ply on these zones.
In contrast to the Railways’ statement that most of the deaths were of people who were ‘chronic disease patients’, a zonal railway officer told Hindustan Times that heat, exhaustion and thirst are among the primary issues faced by the passengers on board these trains.
The Railways has been facing severe criticism for serious mismanagement and delays in running the trains. In some cases, the trains have even been misrouted, ending up in the wrong destination. To the allegations that many trains had “lost their way”, the Railway Board chairman V.K. Yadav claimed that no train can ever be “lost” and of the 3,840 trains operated since May 1, only four have taken over 72 hours to reach their destinations.
Railways data shows 36.5% of all Shramik trains have ended up in Bihar and 42.2% have terminated in Uttar Pradesh, leading to unequal pressure on these routes.
The initial few days, people travelling on these special trains were not provided any access to food or water, without any pantry services running on the train or at the stations. Most people had gone without food for the entire duration of the journey.
Only after facing criticism did the railways start distributing food, water to passengers at important stations. Several NGOs have also come forward to help people.