Article Publish Date : May 17, 2020
Privileged are the ones who are blessed with the fortune to stay at home during this distressing time.
The real toil is felt by those who are away from their homes, stuck somewhere in different parts of the nation amid this lockdown. They are migrant workers. And those who try to set afoot their journeys to reach back home, are met by some tragic accidents.
In the article “The other side of the pandemic”, dated April 16, 2020, it was clearly discussed how this pandemic would greatly affect the poor migrant workers globally, especially in India, where the system is crooked and there is slothfulness of the government officials in almost every level.
It was witnessed in the past week how 16 poor migrant workers’ lives were lost in a train accident.
It has hardly been a week when another 25 migrant workers are killed and other 14 injured in a collision of two trucks. This grievous incident took place around 3 am on May 16, 2020 in the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh, about 200 kilometers away from the state capital. The stranded migrant workers, who went jobless during Covid-19 lockdown, have been killed in this tragic accident while making a desperate attempt to reach their homes.
The migrants ran out of food and they had been turned away for not paying rents during this lockdown. The administration’s slothful empathies and meagre concern failed to reach this poor mass. This left the poor migrants desperate to return to their homes in the hope that at least they would not have to fight hunger. They hitched rides on two trucks from Rajasthan & Delhi. Reports suggest that they were headed to Bihar, Jharkhand, UP and West Bengal. Among the deceased, 12 belonged to Jharkhand, 4 to West Bengal and each two were from Bihar and UP, while many injured were from Madhya Pradesh.
The trailer truck was loaded with goods. Migrants sat over the goods sacks and were asleep. The supply truck en route to Madhya Pradesh from Delhi, had stopped at a nearby Dhaba on the side of the highway near Chiruhali. It was at this moment when the trailer, carrying over 50 people rammed into the stationary supply truck from behind. The trucks overturned due to the collision. Lucky were those who got down at the Dhaba to attend the nature’s call and for refreshments.
The locals along with the policemen helped the injured and carried them to nearby Saifai Medical college. 24 were declared dead on reaching the hospital and 15 injured, were dealt with immediate treatment.
The Prime Minister expressed condolences to the bereaved families and announced an ex-gratia of ₹ 2 lakh each to the kin of deceased and ₹ 50000 each to the injured. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath in a tweet shared, “The death of the migrant workers in a road accident in Auraiya district is very unfortunate and sad. My condolences to the bereaved families. Instructions have been given to ensure relief and medical treatment for those injured. A probe has also been ordered.”
The police officer, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, has been suspended, and both the trucks have been seized; cases have been filed against the owners.
The state has also made a decision to deploy 200 buses to help migrants to reach their home safely.
Akhilesh Yadav, president of the Samajwadi party slammed the BJP government for turning a blind eye towards the problem faced by the migrants. He also announced a compensation of ₹ 1 lakh each to the family members of the deceased.
Various leaders from other parties expressed their resentment and called it an “Inadequacy of the government”.
On the same day, at around 10 am, a similar accident was reported from the Sagar district of MP. Six labourers were killed, of which three were women. The truck, in which they were traveling, overturned. It was also reported that they began the journey from Maharashtra and headed to Uttar Pradesh.
Within the past 2 weeks the migrant death toll, including 3 of the tragic incidents, is 46. This number is just an official record. There are many places that are outside of the radar of the media, and these incidents have become regular with the “New Normal”. Thousands of migrants are dying out of hunger and tiredness or in desperate attempts to reach their homes.
The administration is failing to reach them. Left with no choices, they set afoot their journeys. They make arduous journeys to reach their homes with their families.
Only promises and public statements won’t work. The actual urge to take steps and actions by the concerned authorities can save many migrant lives. Amendments must be made in the laws pertaining to wages of the workers and it should emanate from tripartite consultations involving the government, the workers’ and employers’ organization.
In this way, migrants can stay back whenever there are stranded and avoid arduous journeys because in some way or the other they are the pillars of this nation. And if the pillars fall, so does the nation.