Disclaimer: Visuals can be disturbing for some viewers
In one of the most tragic visuals to emerge from the daily reports of migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown, a baby plays with a shroud covering its dead mother at a station in Bihar.
In the clip widely shared on social media, the toddler tugs at the cloth placed over his mother’s body. The cloth comes off but his mother doesn’t move; she had died of extreme heat, hunger and dehydration moments before.
The clip is from a station in Muzaffarpur in Bihar, where the 23-year-old woman had arrived in a special train for migrants on Monday.
बिहार के मुजफ्फरपुर का ये वीडियो हैं जहां एक बच्चा रेलवे स्टेशन पर मां से खेल रहा, उसे जगा रहा
उसे नही पता उसकी मां हमेशा के लिए सो चुकी है, भीषण गर्मी में चार दिन से ट्रेन में भूखी प्यासी मां की मौत हो गयी pic.twitter.com/xQCRby2q5P
— Kavish (@azizkavish) May 26, 2020
At the same station, a two-year-old child also died, reportedly from heat on top of inadequate food. The child’s family had boarded a different train from Delhi on Sunday.
The Railways Ministry says the woman had been unwell and died on the train, after which the family was asked to get off at Muzaffarpur station.
Lakhs of migrant workers and their families were left to fend for themselves after India went into shutdown in late March.
Without jobs or money, the migrants set out for their homes thousands of kilometres away, walking or on cycles, autos or trucks. Many died before they could reach home, either in road accidents or from hunger and exhaustion.
Earlier this month, the government started special trains to take migrants home, but the process has been vexed by paperwork and glitches, which led to many still making their own desperate arrangements to go home.
In the soaring heat, migrant families have been forced to wait in queues, either for tickets or at centres where they are screened and declared virus-free to travel on trains.
Temperatures have touched 50 degrees in parts of India, adding to the suffering of labourers and families on the move.
A recent home ministry order that stressed that no permission is needed from destination states to run the trains seems to have added to the chaos.
Officials suspected that lack of coordination between the centre and states has worsened the arrangements on the trains and at stations.
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