Without Food for Days and in Searing Heat, Migrants Die on Shramik Special Trains

As many as six migrants, including a four-year-old and a one-month-old, have died in the course of and after travelling on these trains.

New Delhi: After waiting for longer than a month from the time that the lockdown was announced, thousands of migrant workers took the trains to their hometowns, hoping to get temporary relief from the extreme uncertainty of the bigger cities. But, with trains getting diverted to different routes due to congestion and soaring temperatures, many have been dying on these very trains.

A video which went viral over social media and was aired on several news channels showed a toddler playing with a piece of cloth covering his mother, who didn’t move, as she was dead.

According to NDTV, the video was from a station in Muzaffarpur in Bihar, where the 23-year-old woman had arrived in a special train for migrants on Monday.

The TV channel stated that her family said they had taken the train from Gujarat on Sunday. Due to lack of water and food on the train, she had become ill. Just before the train started to roll into Muzaffarpur, she had collapsed, NDTV reported.

The Railways ministry stated that the women, heading to Katihar with her sister’s family, had been unwell and died on the train, after which the family was asked to get off at Muzaffarpur station.

The Telegraph has reported about the death of a four-year-old who had been crying for hunger as the Shramik Special train took 39 hours to go from Delhi to Patna – more than double the usual time.

Pintu Alam, who was working as a tailor, had decide to leave Delhi after the third extension of the lockdown, with his wife and two sons. 

They left Delhi from Anand Vihar station on May 23 at 2 pm, after their medical examination was completed on Saturday morning. 

When the train reached Lucknow, food was distributed. Their travelling group of 16 got only five packets. All of them shared the 10 pooris, with the children getting milk from cartons that they had brought from Delhi.

Instead of reaching Patna by Sunday morning, the train crawled through the day, stopping intermittently, while the temperature reached over 40 degrees. No food was distributed during the day.

“Finally the train reached Patna on Monday around 5 am…My son (four-year-old Mohammad Irshad) was crying for food, but no food was given at Patna junction,” Alam said.

At Patna, the passengers had to catch buses to go to their final destinations, which led to chaos due to limited transportation.

“A small pick-up truck was available for hire and we took it to Danapur. No food arrangements had been made at Danapur, too. We boarded a train that was to go to Muzaffarpur. It took one-and-a-half hours and we reached around 10 am. All the while the kids were crying for food,” Alam told The Telegraph.

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On reaching Muzaffarpur station, they were running hither and thither to find the bus for West Champaran, when one of them found that Irshad was not moving. “We checked, and found that he was no more. We cried and screamed. I guess he died of hunger and heat,” said Alam.

After an additional district magistrate arranged an ambulance, Irshad was buried in their village Tularam Ghat, a day after Eid. 

“They have snatched our eldest son from us, that too on Eid day. I will not be able to celebrate this festival ever in my life, nor will I ever forgive chief minister Nitish Kumar for this mismanagement,” Alam added.

According to Muzaffarpur district magistrate Chandrashekhar Singh, the district administration was not being informed over the last few days about passengers, which made it difficult to arrange food.

“Many trains are coming without any information. Trains for which we are provided information are arriving late, and if there is a list of 1,200 or 1,500 passengers coming in a train, around 2,000 or 2,500 are arriving,” Singh said.

The railway ministry has blamed route congestion for the long delays in the Shramik Special trains.

Earlier on Saturday, a 46-year-old migrant worker had died on a Shramik special train, while travelling to Jaunpur, after not getting water or food for 60 hours. A one-month-old baby died of heat and dehydration on another train to Gorakhpur on Monday.

On Wednesday, two passengers were found dead on another Shramik Special train by railway staff when other passengers had got off the train at Manduadih rail station and it was taken for sanitising at the yard.

One of the dead was identified as 20-year-old Dashrath Prajapati, who was on his way home in Jaunpur from Mumbai and another 63-year-old Ram Ratan Gaud.

The Railways said that Prajapati was suffering from kidney disease, while Gaud was fighting “many illnesses”.