NHRC: Death of 16 Migrant Workers Could Be Averted, District Administration at Fault

A rather ghastly incident occurred between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Nanded Division in the early hours of May 8, 2020. In the said incident, an empty goods train ran over 16 migrant workers lying on the railway tracks; causing instant death of 14 while 2 died on the way to the hospital. In view of such reports, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took suo moto cognizance of the matter. The NHRC issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra and the District Magistrate, Aurangabad.

Observations of the NHRC

The Commission observed that prima facie, the mishap could be termed as a train accident; relying on the expectation that usually people will not be sleeping on the railway tracks. However, the Commission took note of the circumstances of the 16 migrant workers. Laying the blame on the District Administration, the Commission noted that the mishap could have been prevented. The NHRC stated that due to apparent negligence by the administration, the migrant workers lost their lives. Notably, no mode of transport had been thought through for the workers to go back home. The NHRC noted, “had some arrangements been made for their shelter or halt during their tiring journey, the painful tragedy could be averted“.

Directions for a Detailed Report

The NHRC directed officers to submit a detailed report, within four weeks into the incident. It should include details of the steps taken by the authorities to provide food, shelter and other basic amenities to the poor people, especially the migrant workers facing extreme difficulties from every angle. It should also include details of the relief and rehabilitation provided to the victim labourers.

 As per a report by SaveLife Foundation, among 600 road accidents occurred during the lockdown; migrant workers going back home constituted 30% of the victims. Of course, there is a need for the government agencies to deal with the situation, very sensibly, particularly of the vulnerable sections of the society. Death of poor migrant labourers in such a painful tragedy is indeed an issue of violation of human rights. Notably, the Ministry of Railways also ordered an inquiry into the matter.