The Uttar Pradesh government on Monday made arrangements to send back migrant workers and the bodies of migrants who died separately, NDTV reported.
This came after photos showed that labourers were being transported in a truck that also carried the bodies of those who died in the Auriya crash on Saturday, sparking public outrage. Pictures showed two men resting their heads on the sides of an open truck, as bodies wrapped in black tarpaulin sheets lay next to them.
The migrants who died on Saturday had started their journey from Rajasthan and were going to their villages in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. They had hitched a ride on a truck transporting food packets, which got into an accident that killed 26 of them. The authorities sent back the bodies and the survivors on three trucks bound for Jharkhand’s Bokaro and Purulia in West Bengal.
The Prayagraj police intercepted the truck carrying them and the bodies on Monday night near Nawabganj and arranged for separate vehicles, according to Hindustan Times. Inspector General Range Prayagraj KP Singh told the newspaper that the bodies were then sent separately in an air-conditioned “dead body van”, while arrangements were made to send the workers to their native places in another vehicle.
Authorities claimed that there were only two such air-conditioned hearses in the entire district, hence the bodies were transported in the same truck as those injured. Meanwhile, the district magistrate of Auraiya has suspended five lekhpals, who were reportedly in charge of transporting the bodies.
On Sunday, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren had condemned the incident, calling it an “inhumane act that robbed both the living and the dead of dignity”. However, he deleted the tweet later and toned down his criticism, according to The Hindu. “This inhumane treatment of our migrant workers could possibly be avoided,” he said in a tweet. “I request the Uttar Pradesh government and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to arrange suitable transportation of the deceased bodies till Jharkhand border and we will ensure adequate dignified arrangements to their homes in Bokaro.”
The Congress – which is part of the ruling alliance in Jharkhand – pointed out that the bodies had started decomposing during the journey. Senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari told NDTV that according to medical jurisprudence, forcing the living to travel in such circumstances was a “criminal act”. The party further demanded the resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath.
Left without means of sustenance since the nationwide lockdown, migrant workers have been trying to return home with their families. Many undertook long journeys on foot, bicycles or holed up in trucks, with little children and elderly parents in tow. Some have died of exhaustion, while others have been killed in accidents.
On Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government closed its border for migrants. Uttar Pradesh police officials at the border told Scroll.in that they had received orders not to let anyone enter the state on foot or on bicycle. They said that no buses had left Delhi for Uttar Pradesh since Sunday morning. Instead, Adityanath said his government will give them shelter and provide buses for their journey. However, by the next morning, thousands of workers swarmed the state’s borders in anticipation of the buses, with many still stranded there.