NHRC issues notice to government on migrant worker deaths

Railways’ attitude towards the migrant workers borders on barbarism, the Commission says.

Updated - May 28, 2020 11:37 pm IST

Published - May 28, 2020 10:17 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Migrants seen waiting in a camp for boarding the Shramik Special train in West Delhi, on May 28, 2020.

Migrants seen waiting in a camp for boarding the Shramik Special train in West Delhi, on May 28, 2020.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Union Home Ministry, the Railway Board and the Bihar and Gujarat governments on Thursday in connection with the reported deaths of some migrant workers on Shramik Special trains and the lack of food and water for the passengers on these trains.

Also read: Migrant workers | Video of baby with dead mother in Bihar railway station goes viral

The NHRC took suo motu cognisance of media reports about the trains not only starting late, but also taking many more days to reach their destinations. One of the reports claimed that many migrant labourers lost their lives during their journey due to the longer duration and the absence of arrangements for drinking water and food, an NHRC statement said. The government had started these special trains on May 1 to ferry migrant workers back to their home States after they were stranded in different parts of the country during the COVID-19-induced lock-down from March 25.

Watch | How can migrant workers be protected?

‘Gross rights violation’

The NHRC noted that two people died in Muzaffarpur and one each in Danapur, Sasaram, Gaya, Begusarai and Jehanabad in Bihar. “All of them reportedly died due to hunger. In another incident, a train reportedly started from Surat district in Gujarat for Siwan in Bihar on May 16 and reached Bihar on May 25 i.e. after 9 days. The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to gross violation of human rights. The aggrieved families have suffered irrevocable loss. The State has failed to protect the lives of the poor labourers on board the trains,” the statement said.

Taking the reports into account, the NHRC issued notices to the Chief Secretaries of Bihar and Gujarat governments, the chairman of the Railway Board and the Union Home Secretary, seeking their reports within four weeks. “...Train getting lost during journey, reaching unexpected destinations and taking more than a week to reach its scheduled station is hard to believe and requires a thorough investigation...,” it said. The Commission observed that the Railways’ attitude towards the migrant workers “borders on barbarism”. “The labourers cannot be treated in such an inhuman manner, just because they are poor and the government has paid for their tickets,” the NHRC said.

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