Updated: May 30, 2020 9:26:09 am
IN YET another case of a death on a ‘Shramik Special’, the body of a migrant worker lay unattended inside a train for four days, before it was finally found when the train was being cleaned at the Jhansi railway yard on May 27.
Mohan Lal Sharma (37), who worked as a driver with a chips-making factory in Navi Mumbai, was a resident of Basti district in Uttar Pradesh. On May 21, he left Mumbai in a private bus for Jhansi.
While it is not clear when Sharma reached Jhansi, officials said he boarded a ‘Shramik Special’ train from Jhansi to Gorakhpur, which is about 70 km from Basti, on May 23. A ticket found on his body showed the time of departure as 11.40 am.
Pankaj Kumar Singh, Chief PRO, North Eastern Railways, said the train reached Gorakhpur on May 24, at 4 pm. The Jhansi-Gorakhpur train journey normally takes about 11 hours.
After the passengers got off at Gorakhpur, the empty train left for Jhansi about two hours later, at 6.20 pm. It reached Jhansi on May 27, at 7.30 pm. A couple of hours later, Sharma’s body was found inside a toilet in the train at the Jhansi railway yard.
“We got information around 10 pm, Wednesday (May 27) regarding a body being found in a train at the Jhansi railway yard. We immediately rushed there along with a medical team. The body was found in the toilet of the ‘Shramik Special’ train; it had decomposed and was smelling. His face had swollen. We found an Aadhaar card, which identified him as Mohan Lal Sharma, a resident of Basti district,” said Jhansi GRP (Government Railway Police) Inspector Anjana Verma.
“After reaching Jhansi from Mumbai, he (Sharma) went to Gorakhpur in a train. We found a ticket in his pocket, which was for May 23. He left on May 23, at 11.40 am, and the empty train returned to Jhansi on May 27, at 7.30 pm. The door of the toilet was not locked properly; we found Rs 27,000 inside his pocket,” said Verma. “The body was found when the train was being sanitised,” said the officer.
Sharma is survived by his wife, Pooja Devi (38), and four minor children – Gaurav (11), Saurav (8), Shivam and Shivani (twins aged 5).
Speaking to The Indian Express, his nephew, Rahul Sharma (18), said the family last spoke to Sharma on May 23, when he boarded the train from Jhansi.
“He spoke to his wife and said he had boarded the train and would call again after the train left. After that, his phone was switched off. We kept trying to contact him, and later lodged a missing person’s complaint at the local police outpost,” said Rahul.
“On May 27, we got a call saying that his body had been found. Four members of the family have gone to Jhansi,” he said. Rahul said they performed the last rites in Jhansi on Friday, as the body had decomposed.
“We could not do a Covid test because the body was found so late. The procedure must start within six hours of death,” Jhansi District Magistrate Andra Vamsi said. He said the cause of death could not be ascertained in the post-mortem examination, and the viscera has been preserved.
“He was returning home because he was unwell — he had an earache – and also wanted to be with his family as Coronavirus is spreading in Mumbai. Work had also stopped there,” said Rahul.
When contacted, Chief PRO, North Central Railway, Ajit Kumar Singh, said due to the Covid-19 protocol, the train could not be checked after the passengers deboarded in Gorakhpur. “He boarded the train on May 23. He was allowed to board the train after taking all the precautions listed by the state government. From Jhansi to Gorakhpur, no alarm was raised by him or anyone regarding medical help,” said Singh.
Regarding sanitisation of ‘Shramik Special’ trains, Singh said, “Before the train starts from a station, its maintenance is checked and a certificate issued… Once the passengers get off, it is brought back empty to the starting station. As per the protocol, no arrangement for cleaning or maintenance of the train was made at Gorakhpur.”
“When this train was supposed to be serviced in Jhansi on May 27, after it returned from Gorakhpur via Kanpur, the body was found. This was the first chance that Railway officials had to check the train and clean it. This is as per the current rules for these trains. Since the train returned empty, there was no need to clean or check it before it left Gorakhpur. Only the guard van is sanitised,” said Singh.
“It was an empty train. It could have been stationed in Kanpur or any place on the way from Gorakhpur to Jhansi,” he said.
Asked why the train took so long to reach Gorakhpur, and on its return journey as well, Singh said, “During May 23-24, there was congestion on train routes. I can’t give specific details of how long the train was delayed at each station.”
In Mumbai, Sharma’s employer, Sushil Kumar Jaiswal, said he had been working at his factory for about two years. “I had around 20-25 workers in my factory; most of them left for their villages in Uttar Pradesh in trucks and buses. Sharma was the last one to go. I told him to stay back, but he told me that his wife was calling him home as she was scared for him.”
He said Sharma started getting anxious when all the others left. “Despite telling our workers that they could stay in the factory, they wanted to return home. The manner in which people were being transported in trucks was worse than how lifestock is transported. However, they paid Rs 4,000 per seat and got into trucks headed for Gorakhpur,” Jaiswal said.
“Those who travelled in these trucks have all reached home. They called me up,” he said.
Jaiswal said he gave Sharma Rs 30,000 before he left. “He called up after boarding the train at Jhansi… He told me that he would be back in two months,” he said.
With inputs from Mohamed Thaver, Mumbai
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