About 110 migrants died on Railway premises during the operation of Shramik Special trains since May 1, according to sources.
Data from the states where nearly 63.07 lakh stranded migrants reached on 4,611 Shramik Specials indicate that the 110-odd deaths were caused by a variety of reasons, including pre-existing illness and Covid-19. Sources said a couple of deaths have not been taken into account as the bodies were found on tracks — apparently run over by trains.
The government has contended in various official forums, including in an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, that none of the deaths can be linked to unavailability of food or water on Railway premises. On Shramik Special trains, food and water was served for free to the migrants.
To put the number of deaths during operation of Shramik Specials in context, sources told The Indian Express that on an average, 75 people died every day on Railway premises in 2019. These included deaths due to trespassing on railway tracks, natural causes, and a variety of other reasons like falling off trains, being hit by poles while leaning out of moving trains etc. The data is usually collected by the Government Railway Police in respective states. There was no death due to train accidents in 2019.
It is only in cases of deaths due to what is defined as “untoward incident” in the law that compensation can be claimed from Railway Claims Tribunal. Chairman, Railway Board, V K Yadav has said any claim for compensation for the deaths of the migrants would be as per existing procedure of the tribunal on a “case-to-case” basis.
Around 700 cases for compensation for deaths or disabilities are filed in the Railway Claims Tribunal every month. The tribunal grants Rs 8 lakh for each death.
A former chairman of the tribunal has told The Indian Express that compensation can be given under the “eggshell theory” in law, based on which RCT has awarded compensation in the past to the kin of a passenger who died on a train.
About some of the cases of deaths of migrants that emerged during the peak of Shramik Special operations, Railways had said the deceased had pre-existing illnesses and some of them were returning after treatment in cities.