Patna: A day after a 30-year-old migrant worker allegedly committed suicide after having hung himself at a government-run quarantine centre in Bihar, another young migrant worker set himself ablaze at another centre. The incident left him battling for his life at a hospital on Friday, with him having sustained severe burn injuries.
The two shocking incidents in Bihar, within 24 hours of each other, have exposed the rampant neglect, ill-treatment and mismanagement by state authorities at quarantine centres. Thousands of migrant workers who have returned to their home state, have been confined to these centres and are depressed and angry.
That is not all. A seven-year-old boy, the son of a migrant worker, died after being bitten by a poisonous snake at a quarantine centre in Mohanpur block in Gaya district on Wednesday night.
The migrant worker who tried to commit suicide is in his late 20’s. He was at a quarantine centre in a school in Gaighat in Muzaffarpur district. Late on late Thursday night, he tried to commit suicide by setting himself ablaze. He sustained more than 80% percent burn injuries. Some migrant workers saved him and the local administration admitted him to the government-run Shrikrishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur for treatment.
Satish Kumar (name changed) had reached his in-laws house at Kamrathu village in Muzaffarpur from Mumbai, last week. He had covered a distance of 1,900 kms on his motorcycle during the lockdown and was sent to a quarantine centre by locals. “Satish told us that he tried to self-immolation out of anger over the lack of facilities. He was forced to sleep on the ground and the food was poor,” said Praduman Kumar, a relative.
According to police officials, Kumar was under stress due to the lack of basic amenities in the quarantine centre. “He was disturbed due to the lack of facilities at the quarantine centre,” said a police official.
And in another horror story from Bihar, the half cremated body of migrant worker Rajesh Kumar, who had hanged himself at a quarantine centre in Hajipur, was seen being eaten by stray dogs at Konhara ghat on the banks of the river Ganga. The incident has created fear and anger among local residents over the negligence of the administration in cremating his body. Rajesh had tested positive for the novel coronavirus after he had committed suicide.
Rajesh had returned from New Delhi and was in a quarantine centre. He was reportedly depressed after being quarantined for a second time during the lockdown after having gone through the process in Delhi. After he complained of a cough and fever at the quarantine centre, Rajesh was kept in isolation on account of his deteriorating health condition, said district health official Indradev Ranjan.
However, despite knowing that he had tested positive for COVID-19, officials from the local administration neglected his cremation. It resulted in his half-burnt body being left at the cremation ground at Konhara ghat.
Interestingly, local police officer Rohan Kumar claimed earlier that Rajesh’s body was disposed of under the supervision of a medical team in light of him being a COVID-19 patient.
Last Tuesday, a migrant worker from Mushari block in Muzaffarpur committed suicide after his family refused to allow him inside their house and advised him to stay at a nearby quarantine centre.
Migrant workers at quarantine centres have been expressing their anger against a lack of basic facilities, much to the embarrassment of the state government.
There are reports of over a dozen such incidents where angry migrant workers under quarantine have created a ruckus, staged protests and even turned violent. There are also reports of migrant workers in quarantine fleeing from quarantine centres due to the poor food and a lack of basic facilities.
This is contrary to repeated claims by top officials in Bihar and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s directives to provide facilities at quarantine centres for migrant workers who have returned from other states.
Information and Public Relations Department secretary, Anupam Kumar, said the state government has set up more than 10,354 quarantine centres. He said that more quarantine centres will be set up in view of the increasing number of migrant workers arriving in the state on a daily basis. At present, more than 7,45,881 lakh migrant workers are staying in the quarantine centres. “It is a big challenge to manage them,” he said.
Kumar said that till Friday, more than 8 lakh migrant workers have arrived in the Shramik Special Trains to Bihar from outside states, mainly Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
About 87 special trains carrying nearly 1,43,550 migrant workers will arrive in Bihar on Friday. The highest number – 20 trains – are expected to reach Bihar from Gujarat on Friday, the highest in one day from any state. On Thursday about 1,40,250 migrant workers reached Bihar in 85 special trains.
As of Friday, Bihar had 1,987 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 10 deaths reported. So far, the state has tested 55,692 samples and there are seven COVID-19 testing facilities in the state.
According to officials, 1,086 out of the more than 8 lakh migrant workers who had arrived in Bihar from other states over the past twenty days, had tested positive for COVID-19.