Parliament monsoon session: 97 people died on-board Shramik trains, govt tells Rajya Sabha

Updated on Sep 19, 2020 02:05 PM IST

This was government’s response to question raised by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien in Rajya Sabha on Friday seeking details of total number of deaths that occurred on-board the Shramik Special trains since they started operating, Union railway minister Piyush Goyal.

Parliamentarians in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday.(PTI)
Parliamentarians in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday.(PTI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAnisha Dutta

A total of 97 people were reported dead till September 9 while travelling on-board Shramik Special Trains deployed by the Centre to ferry migrant workers during the lockdown period, government said in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

On May 30, Hindustan Times reported that almost 80 deaths took place on-board Shramik Special trains between May 9 and May 27, citing data from the Railway Protection Force.

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In response to a question raised by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien in the Rajya Sabha on Friday on details of total deaths that occurred on-board the Shramik Special trains since they started operating, Union railway minister Piyush Goyal said: “Out of these 97 cases of death, State Police sent dead bodies for post mortem in 87 cases. 51 post mortem reports have been obtained from respective State Police so far, in which the reasons for deaths have been shown as cardiac arrest/heart disease/brain haemorrhage/pre-existing chronic disease/chronic lung disease/chronic liver disease etc.”

The railways minister’s response comes amid a political storm caused earlier this week by labour ministry’s response in the Lok Sabha on Monday stating that no data is available on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the 68-day lockdown enforced on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Shramik Special Trains began operation on May 1 to ferry migrant labourers back to their home states during the lockdown period. In all, 4,621 Shramik Special Trains have been operated between May 1 and August 31, carrying 6,319,000 passengers to their home states, the ministry said in Parliament.

“Policing on Railways being a state subject, prevention of crime, registration of cases, their investigation and maintenance of law & order in Railway premises as well as on running trains are the statutory responsibility of the State Governments, which they discharge through Government Railway Police (GRP)/District Police. Railway Protection Force (RPF) supplements the efforts of GRP/District Police to provide better protection and security of passenger area & passengers and for related matters. Based on the data provided by State Police, 97 persons have been reported dead till 09.09.2020 while travelling on board Shramik Special Trains during current Covid-19 situation/crisis. The State Police registers case under Section 174 of Cr.PC in cases of unnatural deaths and follows further legal process,” Goyal said.

In an interview to HT on June 1, Goyal had said that the Indian Railways has been transparent about the deaths, and insisted on compiling a list of them, and finding out causes even as news reports suggested that “eight or nine migrants” died on trains. The real number has emerged only because of this, he suggested.

Goyal had said some of the deaths could have been prevented with better medical screening but the doctors who were dealing with a heavy flow of people could not be blamed.

“Indian Railways has a control system were the train is immediately stopped if someone is found ill and they are sent to the nearest hospital base to try and save their lives…In case of deaths, the local zones investigate the reason and without an investigation, there are allegations that they died of hunger when there was no shortage of food. Some deaths occurred and we are compiling the figures... we will issue the figures in a few days.” Railway Board CEO VK Yadav had said in May.

A total of 113 complaints have been received by IRCTC from passengers travelling on 4,621 Shramik Special Trains on unavailability of food and water during the journey, Goyal said in response to a separate question on Shramik Trains in the Rajya Sabha.

Goyal also clarified that Railways did not collect any fare directly from passengers for the Shramik trains. “Railways has collected fare for Shramik Special trains from State Governments or their authorised representatives. Railways did not collect any fare directly from the passengers,” he clarified.

“Railways could recover only a small fraction of expenditure incurred on running of Shramik Special trains, thereby incurring a loss in the operation of these trains,” he added.

Fare collected from state governments for running of Shramik Special Trains for May 1 to August 31, 2020 is approximately 433 crore, the ministry said.

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