Sindhu Barde is still coming to terms to the tragedy that struck her neighbour’s family early on Saturday. “It was decided that we would be going back to our village after work on Saturday and of the 12 families, six stayed back. Otherwise, we would have also met with the same fate,” she said.
Barde’s neighbour was among the 11 who were injured when the Secunderabad-Mumbai Duronto Express ran into the tractor trolley near Yevat in Pune district.
Being migrant sugarcane cutters, the families that hail from the village of Takli Manur in Pathardi taluka of Ahmednagar district had come to Yevat around a month ago. Barde, who has come with her husband, seven sons and three daughters for the first time, said, “We had no work in our village and we have come to work in jaggery mills post the end of the sugarcane cutting season this year. However, work was less and so we had decided to go home on Saturday. Six of the 12 families had gone out for work in two trolleys,” she said.
Ashwini Barde’s father Babasaheb happened to be the head of the cutter’s group and he was also driving the tractor trolley that met with the accident. Both Ashwini and her father were injured and had to be hospitalised. “We were planning to go back to our village as the work here had dried up. While some of us were to start on Saturday, we were to go home after finishing our work. This morning we were on our way to our last assignment when the accident happened,”said Bordhe.
The contraption which met with the accident had a tractor pulling both the trolleys. These vehicles, used to transport sugarcane to the fields, also serves as a mode of transport for the families. A total of 22 people, which included children, were travelling during the accident.
For this group of sugarcane cutters, this was the first time that they had stayed back after the closure of the sugarcane cutting season, to earn extra money by working in the jaggery mills. Latabai Pawar, one of the injured, said that despite their staying back, their earnings from the season was low. “Work was few and far between. We were without work for the past four days and that is why we were going for additional work,” she said.
An uncertain future now awaits the families as they have to deal with the injured and also think of other ways of earning money. “We are going back to our village and will try to eke out a living there. But lack of work will continue to haunt us,” said Barde.