BHOPAL: It was in the early hours of May 8, 2020 that 16 migrant labourers from Shahdol and Umaria districts of the State were run over by a speeding goods train in the Auranagabad district of Maharashtra. They were trudging home along the railway tracks and decided to rest for a while on the tracks. Dead tired, they soon dozed off and were crushed by the train. It was one of the worst Covid-19-related tragedies in the country and had received wide coverage in the national media at that time. The incident, however, soon faded from the proverbially short public memory.
Amazingly, even the state government, which had made much noise about the tragedy at that time, has forgotten them and their next of kin. Ten months after the horrific incident, the families of many of them are still waiting for their death certificates. All the 16 men worked at steel factories in Maharashtra’s Jalna town. They had lost their jobs and decided to walk back to their villages. However, they never reached their homes.
Ashok Singh, a farmer, lost his brother Dhan Singh (26), only son Dipak Singh and three young cousins Shiv Dayal, Dharmendra Singh and Raj Bahoran in the tragedy. They lived in Antauli village of Shahdol district. “We have got compensation of Rs 13 lakh each, but are yet to get the death certificates. Recently we met the sub divisional magistrate (SDM) and the tehsildar. They assured us that we will get the death certificates soon,” Singh said.
“We got the compensation and also the monthly widow pension on the basis of the postmortem reports, but we fear that the houses promised to us under the Prime Minister Housing Scheme and benefits under other government schemes could get stuck for want of death certificates," he said.
In neighbouring Umaria district’s Jamudi village, Krishnavati Singh, the young mother of two kids, lost her husband Munim Singh in the same tragedy. “We’ve received the compensation amount, but my husband’s death certificate is yet to come. The collector saheb had come to our village and had announced that we’ll also get a house under the PM Awas Yojana. How will we get the benefits of the PM Housing Scheme and other government schemes till I get my husband's death certificate? she asks.
In the same village, Pushpa Singh, who lost her husband Brijendra Singh, has parked the compensation money in a fixed deposit, after using a small part of it to start a small business. “I sell bangles which fetches me around Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 monthly. I get Rs 600 per month pension, too. It is not enough to run my family,” she says. The collector Umaria, Sanjiv Shrivastrava, admitted that "despite long correspondence with the Maharashtra government, the death certificates of the men killed have not been issued. We'll write to authorities in Maharashtra again."
Long wait for death certificates
11 months on, 16 families still wait for the death certificates from Maharashtra. The families fear that the houses promised to them under the Prime Minister Housing Scheme and benefits under other government schemes could get stuck for want of death certificates