Sixteen migrant labourers, who were trying to return to their home State Madhya Pradesh on foot, were killed on Friday when a goods train ran over them between Jalna and Aurangabad districts, nearly 260 km from here. One was seriously injured, while three escaped.
According to the Aurangabad police authorities and railway officials at the Nanded division of the South Central Railway (SCR), 14 were killed on the spot, while two died of their injuries on way to hospital. The incident occurred under the jurisdiction of the Karmad police station in Aurangabad.
All were aged between 20 and 30 and hailed from Umaria and Shahdol districts. They were working at a steel firm in the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) zone in Jalna district.
“Around 5:15 a.m. thereabouts, a freight train ran over some labourers in a rail track near Karmad, killing 16 of them. One of them is injured and we are counselling three others who fortunately escaped the tragedy to understand what exactly transpired,” said Mokshada Patil, Superintendent of Police (Aurangabad Rural).
SCR officials said the incident occurred at 5.22 a.m. between Badnapur and Karmad stations on the Parbhani and Manmad section under the Nanded division.
Chief Public Relations Officer of SCR CH Rakesh said, “The incident occurred even as the loco pilot of the train blew the horn as soon as he noticed the group of people infringing the rail track and also made all possible efforts to stop the train”.
The train comprised empty containers of petroleum products and was on its way from Cherlapalli in Telangana to Manmad in Maharashtra.
According to the authorities, the labourers left Jalna at 7 p.m. on Thursday and walked on the road until Badnapur and then moved to the track. They decided to stop after walking around 36 km and fell asleep at the accident spot.
Immediately on receipt of information, personnel from the Railway Protection Force, including senior officials, and other departments reached the place. A medical relief van with doctors and nurses was also rushed to the spot.
The railways have appointed Ram Kripal, Commissioner of Railway Safety, South Central Circle, to hold an independent inquiry into the incident.
Disturbing scenes were witnessed in Karmad as police and rescue teams collected the mutilated bodies.
“From initial reports, it appears that they started walking on Thursday evening from Jalna and after walking 40 km and exhausted by their journey, decided to rest on the track, where they fell asleep. They were planning to walk to Bhusaval but tragedy struck,” said a policeman from the Karmad police station.
The Madhya Pradesh government has announced Rs. 5 lakh as ex-gratia for the deceased labourers’ families.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided”.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said relief operations were on and that he had ordered an inquiry into the accident.
BJP leader and Jalna MP Raosaheb Danve said he was trying to ascertain as to what compelled the labourers to begin walking to their hometowns despite the Maharashtra government having started transport of labourers via the Shramik Special trains.
“I cannot comment on the incident except to say it is deeply disturbing. I am on my way to Jalna to find out whether or not the labourers were being given adequate food during the lockdown period. I know of companies that have housed and fed their migrant workers,” he told a vernacular news channel.