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Commission calls for answers on deaths of 16 migrant workers

Graphic: Railway line, India

The workers were sleeping on the railway line when they were struck by the empty goods train in the early hours of the morning.

The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, and the District Magistrate, Aurangabad, after taking suo motu cognizance of media reports on the deaths of 16 migrant workers by an empty goods train in the early hours of 8 May 2020.

The incident happened between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Nanded Division.

The Commission has directed the officers to submit a detailed report within four weeks into the incident. It should also include details of the steps taken by the State and the district authorities to provide food, shelter and other basic amenities to vulnerable people, especially migrant labourers, who are facing extreme difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to media reports, 14 labourers died on the spot and two others succumbed to injuries later. The workers, who were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna to board a "Shramik Special" train to return to Madhya Pradesh, were sleeping on the railway line when the incident occurred between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Nanded Division.

About 20 workers were reportedly walking from Jalna to Bhusawal, a distance of about 150 kms. They stopped after walking for about 45kms to rest and then fell asleep on the tracks. They were struck by the goods train around 5:15am.

According to reports, the train driver noticed some persons along the tracks and sounded the horn. He attempted to stop the train but failed to contain its speed before colliding with those asleep on the tracks.

An inquiry in the matter has been ordered by the Ministry of Railways.

The Commission has observed that, prima facie, the incident can be viewed as an accident. However, the poor labourers, who were already facing many hardships amid the countrywide lockdown, lost their lives due to apparent negligence by the district administration.

The painful tragedy could have been averted had some arrangements been made for their shelter or rest during their tiring journey.

The Commission, in orders passed in other recent cases, has expressed the need for government agencies to deal with situations arising from the countrywide lockdown with a specific focus on the needs of vulnerable sections of the society.

Date: 8 May 2020

Source: National Human Rights Commission of India

Image credits

  1. Railway line, India - Ishan Kholsa, Flickr CC