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8,733 People Died on Tracks in 2020, Many Believed to be Migrants

The data came in response to a question raised by Madhya Pradesh-based activist Chandra Shekhar Gaur.

Updated
India
2 min read
Migrant labourers during the complete lockdown due to coronavirus. Representational image. 
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According to the data provided by The Railway Board, more than 8,700 people, many of them migrant workers, were found dead on railway tracks in 2020. These incidents occured, even as passenger train services were severely curtailed amid the restrictions imposed during the pandemic, PTI reported.

The data came in response to a question raised by Madhya Pradesh-based activist Chandra Shekhar Gaur, under the Right to Information Act.

It said, “Based on the information received from the State Police, 805 people suffered injuries and 8,733 people died on the railway track between January 2020 and December 2020,” PTI quoted.

As the nation went into a lockdown overnight, many migrant workers chose to walk back home, as no transport services were available for their journeys. The route of the train tracks is considered shorter than roads or highways, officials reportedly said.

Additionally, they stated that the workers chose the tracks in a bid to evade police and to be on the right path, believing that no trains would be running due to the lockdown.

A Railway Spokesperson, DJ Narain informed that incidents like these happen “because of trespassing”.

Narain added, “It’s a civic issue of concern. The Railways has always made huge efforts in sensitising trespassers to avoid walking on tracks. Around 70,000 km of rail tracks are spread across the country with over 17,000 trains of all kinds running on a daily basis. Deaths on tracks of trespassers is unfortunate and sad. Our concern on safety of passenger and citizens is second to none,” PTI quoted.

The fatalities during the four-year prior to 2020 were more than the deaths recorded last year, however the numbers acquire significance in the backdrop of the curbs imposed on passenger services amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

Only freight trains were in operation during the lockdown before the Railways started Shramik Special trains from 1 May, to carry migrant workers home.

By December, around 1,100 special trains were operating, with 110 regular passenger trains also making their journeys. At present, train services have been restored to 70 percent of the pre-COVID traffic.

A large number of fatalities on train tracks go unregistered, as they went last year, however the news of 16 migrant workers being crushed to death by a freight train in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad last May shocked many.

The Railways, however, do not consider these fatalities “railway accidents”, they come under instances of “untoward incidents” or “trespassing” and are probed by the state police. The victims are eligible for compensation by the state government.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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