A week after 16 migrant labourers were crushed to death when a goods train ran over them while sleeping on the railway tracks between Jalna and Aurangabad, in Maharashtra, the Supreme Court responded to a petitioner who raised the issue in the apex court demanding welfare and provision of transport for them.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjay Kaul said “How can anyone stop this when they sleep on railway tracks? How do you stop people who want to keep walking? Can anyone go and stop them? Impossible for anyone to stop them”, as reported by News18.
SC further refused to entertain the plea of the petitioner who wanted the bench to direct district magistrates to help stranded migrants by providing food, shelter and free transport. Centre informed the apex court that arrangements have been made for the migrants to return home, but the lot doesn’t want to wait and hence set out to reach their destination on foot.
The incident happened around 5.30 a.m. on May 8, when the migrants, who were on their way back to their homes, fell asleep on the railway tracks.
The official said that an empty petroleum tanker train was proceeding from Cherlapalli in Telangana to Paniwadi, near Manmad in Maharashtra. "After passing Badnapur station, the locopilot saw some people on the tracks and tried to control it and sounded the horn also, but by the time he could do, it was too late," South Central spokesperson Rakesh told IANS.
According to information the workers were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna, and further onward to Madhya Pradesh. Rakesh said these people were lying on the tracks. An enquiry has been ordered by the Commissioner, Railway Safety.
A senior railway ministry official in Delhi said that those run over by train are labourers and residents of Madhya Pradesh's Umarya and Shahdol and worked in SRG Company in Maharashtra's Jalna.
He said, as per the statements of the survivors, the group had left Jalna on Thursday at 7 p.m. on foot initially on road upto Badnapore and later on the track towards Aurangabad.
"After walking for about 36 km, they became tired and sat on the track for taking some rest and gradually fell asleep," he said, adding that 14 people sat on the track, two members adjacent to the track and three members away from track.
He said that senior officials of the Nanded division and the Government Rail Police (GRP) and local police had rushed to the accident site.
Amid the nationwide lockdown that has entered its third phase since coming into effect from March 24, thousands of migrant workers stranded in several cities have been on an unending toil to return to their native places on foot.
The interstate bus service, passenger, mail and express train services have been suspended since March 24. The Railways has started running Shramik Special trains to transport the stranded migrants to their native places since May 1. Till Thursday railways have run 201 Shramik Special trains.