OdishaPlus Bureau

Hit-and-runs, collisions, and even a train speeding down the tracks have killed scores of migrants since the lockdown began and injured many more making a perilous journey home along roads that are empty, winding, and seemingly endless.

As vehicles careen down deserted roads and lakhs of migrants are on the move, packed into trucks and tempos, riding rickety cycles or just walking towards their villages, hundreds, maybe thousands, of kilometers away. The death count from accidents rises inexorably with each day of the lockdown.

migrant workers

The Save Life Foundation, a non-profit organization working towards curbing road accidents in the country, has recorded nearly 2,000 road crashes and 368 deaths from March 25 when the lockdown began to May 16. Among these, 139 deaths are of migrants traveling back home, 27 of essential workers, and 202 of others, it said.

A few hours later, tragedy unfolded in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, when five migrant workers going from Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh were killed when a truck carrying them overturned on the Sagar-Kanpur Road. The combination of no traffic and speeding vehicles has led to havoc, endangering the lives of those who found themselves without work or money in the coronavirus-induced lockdown and were frantic to get home, any which way.

Migrant Labours

Over this week alone, there have been multiple accidents reported from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In Guna, Madhya Pradesh, for instance, as many as 14 migrants were killed and around 60 injured in two different road accidents on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, six migrant workers were killed and 95 injured in separate road accidents across Uttar Pradesh.

And the day before, six migrant workers walking from Punjab to Bihar were killed in Muzaffarnagar in the state when they were hit by a roadways bus on the Delhi-Saharanpur Highway. With no compass to guide them on their treacherous inter-state journey home and perhaps to escape the police, many people also walk along railway tracks. On May 8, it cost 16 lives.

Migrants Labour

In perhaps the most gruesome of accidents, 16 migrant workers going to Madhya Pradesh were mowed down by freight train when they dozed off on the tracks near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. In a chilling reflection of the hunger and deprivation that led the group of 20 men working in a steel unit in Jalna, four of them survived while the ‘rotis’ they had packed to see them through the journey lay scattered on the tracks.

The same morning, hundreds of kilometers away, a migrant laborer couple, Krishna Sahu (45) and his wife Pramila (40), were run over by an unidentified vehicle on their way from Lucknow to Chhattisgarh. The couple, on a bicycle, were with their two children, both under five years, who survived the crash. Reduced to statistics as they undertake their own personal odysseys, challenging the odds but not always triumphing them, there was a back story everywhere.

Sramik Special

Some lockdown-induced road accidents were reported as early as March 28 when four migrants were run over by a truck on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. According to Indian Express, the four, part of a group of seven which wanted to reach their villages in Rajasthan after crossing into Gujarat, had just begun walking after taking some rest when a truck came from behind and rammed into them.

Two days later, 40-year-old laborer Sukh Lal Ahirwar died in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh after a car hit him. Ahirwar and his wife had walked for two straight days from Delhi towards their home in Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh and were resting on a road divider when the accident took place.