An Indian train ran over migrant workers sleeping on the track on Friday, killing at least 14 of the group, who were apparently on their way to their home villages, the railway ministry and media said on Friday.
Tens of thousands of people have been walking home from India’s big cities after losing their jobs because of a lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus since late March.
The driver tried to stop the freight train when he saw the labourers on the tracks in the western state of Maharashtra, the railway ministry said, adding it had ordered an inquiry.
If this news doesn’t shake our national conscience, nothing will.. absolutely devastating. Heart goes out to all families of the dead workers: गरीब की कोई सुनवाई है या नहीं? . #Aurangabad https://t.co/9lQba7p15b
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) May 8, 2020
“I have just heard the sad news about labourers coming under the train, rescue work is under way,” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Twitter.
Under the lockdown, all public transport has been suspended so migrant workers heading home often have to walk long distances to get there.
The government has extended the lockdown until May 17.
The opposition and activists have criticised the government for not helping the workers in reaching their respective homes across the countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his “anguish at the loss of lives” in the accident. “All possible assistance required is being provided,” he tweeted.
India’s railway network is one of the largest in the world and carries about 23 million passengers a day.
Accidents are common, with most blamed on poor maintenance and human error.
A 2012 government report described the loss of 15,000 passengers to rail accidents every year in India as a “massacre”.
Al Jazeera and news agencies