SAYING THAT the treatment of migrant workers “by the Railway authorities borders around barbarism”, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the Railway Board chairman, Union home secretary and chief secretaries of Bihar and Gujarat.
It has asked them to submit a report, within four weeks, on the steps taken to ensure basic facilities to migrants.
The NHRC, which issued the notices on Thursday, said it was taking suo motu cognizance of media reports on trains taking days to reach their destination and how “many migrant labourers lost (their) lives during the journey by train due to longer duration and no arrangements for drinking water and food etc.”
It said the government had failed to “protect the lives of poor migrants on board trains”. “It is a matter of concern… they are being subjected to such treatment by the Railway authorities, which borders around barbarism. The poor labourers cannot be treated in such an inhuman manner just because they are poor and the government has paid for their tickets. Any shortcoming on the part of the government agencies cannot be covered under the excuse of unprecedented situation amid countrywide lockdown,” the NHRC said.
“The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to gross violation of human rights. The aggrieved families have suffered irrevocable loss. The state has failed to protect the lives of the poor labourers on board the trains,” it said.
The NHRC cited reports of how migrants, including a four-year-old boy, died in trains, en route to Muzaffarpur, Danapur, Sasaram, Gaya, Begusarai and Jehanabad in Bihar, and how a train started from Surat (Gujarat) for Siwan (Bihar) on May 16, and reached on May 25.
“A train getting late due to bad weather etc. for some hours is always considered beyond the control of the authorities, but a train getting lost during the journey, reaching unexpected destinations and taking more than a week to reach its scheduled station is hard to believe and requires a thorough investigation into the matter,” the NHRC said.
It underlined that the poor and migrants have been suffering since the beginning of the lockdown.
“Complaints are being received from different parts of the country regarding unnecessary harassment of people by the public authorities. It has emerged from the entire scenario that the people belonging to vulnerable classes have suffered the most. Daily wage workers, small shop owners, rickshaw pullers, cab operators and poor labourers have become the worst victims in recent days,” it said.
The NHRC said the states were supposed to take care of migrants, but for “whatsoever reasons, the migrant labourers started feeling uncomfortable and started protesting to reach their native places”, and many died while walking home.
And while the Centre started special trains for them, it did not help their plight. “The trains have started operating and the ticket charges are being borne by the central and state governments, but the sufferings of the poor labourers are not seemingly coming to an end. There have been several media reports stating that in many cases, the labourers are being called to board the train. They are brought to the railway stations in buses without maintaining social distancing. They are put to wait for hours, without any arrangements of drinking water, food, shaded shelter and toilets. The female labourers, old aged persons, ill persons, small children and specially-abled persons are reportedly suffering a lot. Many times, the poor labourers have been told to go back as the trains got cancelled,” it said.
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