Aurangabad/Lucknow: A goods train ran over a group of migrant workers who fell asleep on the rail tracks on Friday killing 16 of them in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, in a tragedy that highlighted the plight of thousands of labourers hit by coronavirus lockdown walking long distances back to their native states.
Aurangabad District police chief Mokshada Patil informed that three of the four survivors from the group of 20 men returning to their home state of Madhya Pradesh tried in vain to wake up their colleagues who had slept on the track after a overnight walk from Jalna, around 40 km from the site of the accident.
The Railways announced a comprehensive probe into the accident which occurred at 5.15 am near Karmad, around 30 km from Aurangabad city.
As reports of anxious migrant workers demanding transport facility to return to their home state came from several parts of the country, several states pressed for deployment of more Shramik Special’ trains to ferry lakhs of labourers.
A video clip from the accident scene in Karmad that has gone viral showed the bodies of workers lying on the tracks and nearby with their meagre personal belongings scattered around. Pieces of roti were found strewn near the tracks.
The victims, aged between 20 and 35 years, hailed from Umaria and Shahdol districts of MP and were working in a steel factory in Jalna, police said.
In a statement, the South Central railway said the train driver had seen the sleeping men and had even tried to alert them up by honking but failed to save their lives.
The migrant workers, rendered jobless due to the lockdown and desperate to go to their native places, left Jalna on Thursday night and were walking along the rail tracks apparently to escape the attention of police.
The workers, who were headed to Bhusawal in MP, came till Karmad and fell asleep on the rail tracks due to exhaustion when they were run over by the goods train coming from the Jalna side, an official at the Karmad police station said.
Three of the four survivors were sleeping some distance away from the rail tracks, he said.
“I had a word with the survivors. They started walking from Jalna on Thursday night and tried to reach Bhusaval, Mokshada Patil told PTI. Bhusawal is about 180 km from the accident site.
” Out of the 20 people, 16 died, one is injured and three are with us. A case will be registered at the Karmad police station,”she said
Jalna SP S Chaitanya said the migrant labourers had left without informing their employer or the local administration.
Hours after the accident, the Railways took to social media, urging people not to squat, walk or indulge in any activity on the tracks.
Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety Shailesh Pathak also wrote to the Railway Board Chairman, calling for abundant caution and requesting him to issue instructions to ensure that such accidents do not recur.
Due to the lack of congestion on their routes, the average speed of freight trains have increased by 66 per cent during the lockdown.