Visuals of injured migrant labourers travelling in an open truck with tarpaulin-wrapped dead bodies in Uttar Pradesh has infuriated Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who called it an “inhumane” act that robbed both the living and the dead of dignity.
The bodies were those of migrants who died in Auraiya, 200 km from Lucknow, on Saturday morning. A day later, visuals of the truck, where the dead and the injured were being transported, were widely circulated.
“This inhumane treatment of our migrant workers could possibly be avoided. I request @UPGovt & Office of @NitishKumar’ji to arrange suitable transportation of the deceased bodies till Jharkhand border & we will ensure adequate dignified arrangements to their homes in Bokaro,” Mr Soren tweeted.
Around 3.30 am on Saturday, 26 migrant labourers died and more than 30 were injured in Auraiya as two trucks, one coming from Punjab and another from Rajasthan, collided on the highway.
Eleven of the deceased were from Jharkhand — one was from Palamu and rest from Bokaro. The others were from Bengal.
A day later, the authorities sent back the bodies and the survivors on three trucks, bound for Jharkhand’s Bokaro and Purulia in West Bengal.
The subsequent outrage and Mr Soren’s tweet, led to action. On the highway to Prayagraj, the trucks were stopped and the bodies were loaded onto ambulances.
The Congress — part of the ruling alliance in Jharkhand — pointed out that the bodies had started decomposing during the journey, Senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said according to medical jurisprudence, forcing the living to travel in such circumstances was a “criminal act”.
The district magistrate of Auraiya, Abhishek Singh, said, “The photo that went viral will be investigated”.
The deaths of the migrant labourers in Auraiya set off a political battle between the opposition and the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
Pointing out that the trucks were running illegally from two Congress-ruled states, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath blamed the party for the accident.
The Congress has demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister.
Over the last weeks, thousands of desperate migrant labourers have been trying to reach home by any means possible. Many took trucks, tempos and autos, often paying every rupee they possess. But not everyone has reached home. Some died of exhaustion, others in repeated accidents on the highway.
The Uttar Pradesh government has now stopped the entry of labourers who are coming on foot or in transport other than state government buses. Officials in border districts have been asked to look after the people and send them home in government buses.