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Mizoram Bridge Collapse: 18 Dead Bodies of Migrant Labourers Returned to Bengal

Heart-wrenching scenes, as 18 out 23 dead young men from Bengal reach Ratua, Engrejbazaar, and Kalichak villages in Malda.
18 Dead Bodies

mass graveyard in choudua village for burying the dead at choufua village

Malda: On August 26, at 9:15 pm, after a tense 48-hour wait, three villages in West Bengal's Malda district were witness to the heartbreaking homecoming of their sons. The young men from Ratua, Engrejbazaar, and Kalichak villages had left as migrant labourers to work in Mizoram on a bridge project, which tragically collapsed.

Choudua village in Ratua became the epicentre of grief and disbelief. This village, in particular, mourned the loss of 11 of its own in the bridge catastrophe. 

A total of 18 dead bodies made their way back to their respective villages from Saipung in Mizoram, adding to the grim tally of 23 deaths of migrant labourers from Malda district caused by the bridge collapse. These 18 bodies were among the first retrieved by army personnel at the accident site in Mizoram.

Starting Friday afternoon, thousands of villagers congregated outside the homes of the deceased migrant labourers. As ambulances rolled by, family members couldn't contain their anguish, creating a heart-wrenching scene. In Choudua village, the Rahman family endured tragedy, losing six young members, all from the same household, who had gone together to work on the bridge project.

Earlier in the afternoon, Governor CV Ananda Bose visited the homes of the deceased labourers. In his presence, railway officials presented compensation checks to the grieving families, each receiving Rs 9,50,000 in check and Rs 50,000 in cash.

Governor Bose addressed reporters, emphasising the need to prevent such incidents in the future, stating, "We stand with the victims' families." He also mentioned that the Union Railway Ministry provides Rs 10 lakhs to the deceased, Rs 2 lakhs to the seriously injured, and Rs 50,000 to those with less severe injuries. The state government is also committed to providing compensation, with Governor Bose stressing the importance of collective efforts to support migrant workers.


Compensation being given by railway officers

Leaders from mass organisations, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India Kisan Sabha, the Migrant Labourers Union, and the Road Transport Workers Federation, visited the affected villages post-incident. Accompanied by the affected families, they demanded employment opportunities for at least one member of each victim's family and fair compensation. Notably, the Railways is yet to announce any plans regarding employment for the victims' families.

The union leaders protested against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's directive to migrant workers, urging them not to leave the state and instead open Tele Bhaja (fritters) shops in their villages. They argued that rural Bengal's job opportunities are scarce, compelling people to seek work in other states. Regarding the fritters cart idea, they questioned whether the local population would consume such vast quantities of fries.

Among the mass organisation leaders who visited Choudua village and met with the grieving families were CITU district President Pranab Das, Secretary Debjyoti Sinha, Migrant Laborers Union district secretary Kamal Sheikh, and Road Transport Federation President Nurul Islam.

SM Sadi, President of the West Bengal Migrant Labourers Union, highlighted the plight of over seven million migrant labourers working in other states, many of whom tragically died in accidents. He underscored the lack of job opportunities in Bengal, which forces residents, especially from rural areas, to seek menial employment elsewhere.

Sadi also pointed out that it is ironic that despite central government initiatives like 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav', 'Amrit Kaal', and the launch of Vande Bharat Express trains, incidents like the Odisha train crash, which claimed the lives of 103 migrant workers, continue to occur.

In the aftermath of Tata Motors' departure from Singur, Bengal has struggled to attract significant investments, and various industries face obstacles. Meanwhile, the 100-day MGNREGA programme was suspended due to allegations of corruption, further exacerbating the migration of low-income groups from rural areas to seek livelihoods in other states.

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