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1.56am, Friday, May 8, 2020
The Vigil Desk

New Delhi: At least 16 migrant workers were killed when a goods train ran over them in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district in the early hours of Friday. The migrants were reportedly sleeping on the tracks after being exhausted while walking along the railway line towards their native places in Madhya Pradesh.

According to reports, 14 of the migrants died on the spot and other two succumbed to their injuries later.

Police said the workers were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna in central Maharashtra along the railway line when they stopped of exhaustion and fell asleep on tracks.  The incident happened 40 kilometres from the Karmad station in Aurangabad district at around 5.15am. Reports said the train driver tried to stop the train from running over the sleeping workers but failed.

The nation was shocked when horrific photos and videos of the tragedy started appearing on social media, some of which showed dismembered bodies of the workers strewn around along with their meagre belongings and the food they were carrying.

The incident happened in the backdrop of a national outrage. The government’s neglect of the poor and helpless migrants, their harassment and beatings by the police enforcing the lockdown, and mistreatment by their employers are in news and social media discussions for the last few weeks now.

The nationwide lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, has left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers stranded in cities across India with little food and money. This made them desperate to go back to their native villages. With no transportation service available for over a month into the lockdown and amid conflicting reports of trains running to ferry them, many of them started walking towards their destinations, which are 100s and sometimes 1,000s of kilometres away, often with small children and ailing family members.

The railway ministry has ordered a probe into the incident. The Maharashtra chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased.