According to reports, the woman died of extreme heat, starvation and dehydration.

A toddler plays with the blanket covering his mother's body at Bihar railway station
Coronavirus Migrant workers Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 17:55

A toddler dressed in a vest lifts a blanket covering a woman. The child peeps inside the blanket twice, as though playing, and then walks in the opposite direction. All this while, the woman under the blanket does not move. According to reports, the woman is the toddler’s mother, who had died moments before, even as her child played fiddled with the blanket, possibly trying to wake her up.

This heartbreaking video has been doing the rounds on social media, and is a searing look into the human cost of the migrant workers’ crisis brought up by the COVID-19 lockdown. The video is reportedly from the Muzaffarpur station in Bihar, and the 23-year-old deceased woman was one of the migrant workers who came via a special train for migrants on Monday from Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

According to NDTV, the woman’s family said that she had died of extreme heat, hunger and dehydration. She had reportedly been sick on the train because of lack of food and water. She had boarded the train on May 23, and had collapsed just before the train arrived at Muzaffarpur. She was going to Katihar with her sister, the latter’s husband and their two children, the railways ministry has said.

Sanjay Yadav, political advisor to Tejaswi Yadav, Bihar’s Leader of the Opposition, tweeted, “The little child does not know that cloth with which he/she is playing is the shroud of the dead mother… this mother died because of four days of hunger and thirst during her train travel. Who is responsible for these deaths in the trains? Shouldn’t the opposition be asked tough questions?”

The Railways spokesperson has responded to the video as well, saying that the woman was already sick, according to her family, and after she passed away on Monday, was deboarded from the train. The Railways had tweeted the same in response to Aam Aadmi Party's Sanjay Singh sharing the video. He had questioned that workers were suffering from thirst and hunger due to trains that should take two days for their journey were taking nine days instead. Clarifying that the woman was unwell, Railways said that people should not spread fake news. 

The crisis of migrant workers has been among the most devastating fallouts of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Lakhs have been compelled to take arduous journeys to their home states, sometimes spanning thousands of kilometres, on foot. While the Centre did start special Shramik trains to ferry the workers home earlier this month, there were several complaints of exorbitantly priced tickets, lax messaging and information, and bad management.

Over the last couple of days, many reports have emerged about the workers being provided little to no food and water on these long train journeys home as well. This, even as the trains are delayed by hours together, making the workers’ journeys even more strenuous. 

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