Nine migrants have died on board Shramik Express trains since Monday as the extreme heat adds to the misery of lakhs of people trying to reach home amid the nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus, PTI reported on Wednesday.
An unidentified Railways official told the news agency that the migrants who died on trains had pre-existing medical conditions. “In most of these cases, it is found that those who died are old, sick people and patients with chronic diseases, who had actually gone to big cities for medical treatment and could come back only after the Railways started these trains,” the official said.
Among those who died was a woman, whose toddler was seen trying to wake her up in a distressing video from the Muzaffarpur railway station in Bihar. The woman reportedly died of heat and hunger. The Railways, however, said that the woman died of a heart condition for which she underwent a surgery recently. Ramakant Upadhyay, the deputy superintendent of the Government Railway Police, told PTI that the woman and her family had faced no troubles getting food and water on the train.
A four-and-a-half-year-old son of a migrant from Bihar also died in Muzaffarpur while his father desperately looked for some milk to feed him. The child’s father claimed that he died of the heat while the police said the boy had been ill for some time and had died before the train from Delhi reached Bihar. A 70-year-old man, a heart patient, also died on the Mumbai to Darbhanga train.
There have been several reports of migrant workers not being given food and water on long train journeys in the searing heat. Passengers of a Shramik Express train from Mumbai to Bihar’s Katihar district were given dry bhel to eat. In several cases, the trains have been delayed and diverted.
Till May 26, the Railways had run over 3,500 Shramik Express trains carrying more than 48 lakh passengers. Nearly 80% of the trains were destined for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Lakhs of migrant workers had begun walking to their villages as the nationwide lockdown imposed in March left them without means of sustenance in big cities and all public transport services were suspended. More than 170 workers have been killed in accidents on the roads or train tracks. Many others died from the exhaustion of walking in the scorching heat.