198 migrant workers killed in three months of Lockdown, Whom to blame?

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There were at least 1,461 accidents throughout the nationwide lockdown – from March 25 to May 31 – in which at least 750 people were killed, including 198 migrant workers. There were 1,390 who got injured, according to the data.

Radhika Bansal | Ground Report

Since the first phase of lockdown, the condition of migrant workers and laborers is bad, really bad. And as the lockdown went from first to second, second to third, third to fourth, fourth to the fifth phase and now to Unlock 1, it worsened.

From road and rail accidents to starvation, denial of medical care, police brutality, exhaustion, and suicides, there have been thousands of reported non-coronavirus deaths which included mostly migrant and daily – wage workers and laborers.

With factories and workplaces shutting down due to the lockdown imposed in the country, millions of migrant workers had to deal with the loss of income, food shortages, and uncertainty about their future. Following this, many of them and their families went hungry. Thousands of them then began walking back home, with no means of transport due to the lockdown.

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And several of them were killed in road accidents. They wanted to return to their homes so that they can save their lives from this deadly virus and hunger because of no employment and money, instead, they were “killed” by over speeding cars and trucks.

Migrant killed in lockdown

There were at least 1,461 accidents throughout the nationwide lockdown – from March 25 to May 31 – in which at least 750 people were killed, including 198 migrant workers. There were 1,390 who got injured, according to the data.

Migrant workers, killed during their efforts to go back home, comprise 26.4% of the overall deaths during the lockdown whereas essential workers comprise 5.3% of the total deaths.

Five states Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, and Maharashtra accounted for the maximum deaths of migrant workers, the non-governmental organization, which is working towards curbing road accidents in the country, said in a statement.

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Phase 3 of the lockdown (Lockdown 3.0), which was extended from May 4 to May 17, resulted in the death of 118 migrant workers, the highest among all other lockdown periods, data from the SaveLife Foundation has revealed. Phase 3 contributed to almost 60 percent of all migrant worker deaths during the lockdown, while phases one, two, and four witnessed 25, 17, and 38 deaths respectively.

“With COVID-19 still very much around, we simply can’t afford to burden our already over-burdened healthcare system with road crash-related trauma. The data collated by us suggests that there has been a surge in road crashes with the lifting of the restrictions across the states in phase 3 and phase 4. States must enhance enforcement to prevent road crashes and the citizens inculcate essential safety habits for the road like they did for personal hygiene during the lockdown,” Piyush Tewari, founder of SaveLife Foundation said.

Now let us look at some of the cases which arise so many questions on the governments – central as well as the state.

01

The first blunder was at the Delhi – Ghaziabad border (Anand Vihar bus terminal). The Uttar Pradesh chief minister tweeted on Saturday morning that his government was arranging 1000 buses to ferry workers home from Ghaziabad and Noida near Delhi. On Friday, AAP ministers put out videos of them trying to persuade workers not to leave. But when the exodus continued, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia announced that 100 city buses would drop that intent on leaving at the Anand Vihar bus terminus, from where they could go to Ghaziabad. Eventually, the frequency of Yogi Adityanath’s buses at Ghaziabad proved too low to accommodate more than a fraction of the one lakh-odd who had turned up — the large crowd itself a coronavirus threat. A barrage of tweets followed from BJP leaders accusing Kejriwal of spreading the coronavirus deliberately by transporting workers to the capital’s boundaries. At a time when the country is reeling from the effects of a global pandemic, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh and the AAP government in Delhi engaged in a political slugfest over the mass exodus of migrant workers from cities due to the lockdown.

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02

Aurangabad: At least 15 migrant workers died after being run over by goods train near Jalna in Maharashtra. All the laborers were returning to Madhya Pradesh and were sleeping on the tracks when the mishap took place at about 5.15 am on May 8. “Please send us some money. We don’t have anything left. Even the contractor is refusing to pay us. What should we do? We will die of hunger and thirst,” were the last words Krishnawati Singh recalled from her husband’s phone conversation at 9 p.m. on Thursday, as he dispiritedly trudged along railway tracks in Maharashtra hoping to reach his village home, some 800 km away.

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03

Twenty-five migrant workers were killed and several injured when a trailer truck they were traveling in rammed into a supply lorry near Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh early on May 16.

04

Around eighty people died between May 9 and May 27 on Shramik Special trains meant to ferry migrant workers home, according to Railways officials. One of them was a coronavirus victim, and eleven others died from co-morbidities. Ten people died on May 23, nine each on May 24 and May 25, eight on May 27 and 13 on May 26. Recently the government on Friday told the Supreme Court that not a single migrant worker died in Shramik trains due to lack of food, water, or medication. Their deaths were due to “earlier illnesses”. In turn, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked the government to complete the transportation of migrant workers, whether by rail or road, in the next 15 days. It said the exodus cannot continue indefinitely. This is just one side of the coin. The situation is that migrant labor was dying due to hunger too.

After looking and analyzing all these cases, we can very well understand how pathetic their conditions are. It raises several questions on authorities who make us believe that they are doing a lot for these migrant workers.

Just think about what will happen to these people? Do their lives matter? Whose fault is it? Who suffers the most in the blame game how it can be changed? And when we will have answers, we are ready to bring the change.

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