In a shocking incident, fourteen migrant labourers lost their lives after being crushed to death on Friday morning by a goods train in Maharashtra. The workers were heading for home and had slept on a railway track between Jalna and Aurangabad last night.
The workers were employed in Jalna’s steel industry and with the lockdown in place, they had no work since March 22. Two days ago, they heard about the special trains that the government had started for transporting migrant workers to their native places. On Thursday, one such train ferried labourers to Bhopal from Aurangabad and the workers decided to catch the train from Aurangabad, close to 60 kilometres from Jalna.
The workers began walking on Thursday evening and were heading to Aurangabad in the hope of getting on a train. The group of nineteen workers were from Madhya Pradesh.
According to local media reports, the labourers had been walking till midnight. Later, they felt tired and decided to sleep on the railway track. With trains not running due to the lockdown, they thought it would be safe. They slept on the track in Shivar, Satana, between the stations of Badnapur and Karmad. However, a wagon crushed fourteen of them on the spot, early on Friday morning. Five labourers were injured and were brought to Badnapur hospital.
News agency IANS reported that the incident happened at 5:30 a.m. on Friday. A Railway official reportedly said that an empty petroleum tanker train was moving from Cherlapalli in Telangana to Paniwadi, near Manmad in Maharashtra. “After passing Badnapur station, the locopilot saw some people on the tracks and tried to control it and sounded the horn also, but by the time he could do, it was too late," South-Central Railways spokesperson Rakesh told the news agency.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted: “Today at 5:22 AM, we received the sad news that workers who were sleeping came under a goods train between Badnapur and Karmad station of Nanded Division. Relief work is going on, and orders for inquiries have been given. I pray to God for peace to the departed souls.”
With the government deciding to run special trains for labourers from May 1, lakhs of workers are applying for tickets. Many of them are trying to reach railway stations where the trains begin their journey. According to the state’s labour department, almost twelve lakh labourers are trying to go back to their native villages in different states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths on Twitter: "Extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Have spoken to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided."
Railway Minister also tweeted: "Today received a saddening news of labourers sleeping on railway tracks run over by a goods train at 5.22 a.m. in Nanded division between Karnad and Badnapur railway station. Relief work is on and an enquiry has been ordered. I pray for the those who lost their lives."
Amid the nationwide lockdown, thousands of migrant workers stranded in several other cities have been on an unending toil to return to their native places on foot.
The interstate bus service, passenger, mail and express train services have been suspended since March 24.
The Railways has started running Shramik Special trains to transport the stranded migrants to their native places since May 1. Till Thursday railways has run 201 Shramik Special trains.