A speeding bus has run over and killed six Indian migrant workers as they tried to walk home, police said, days after the death of a group of migrants who fell asleep on a railway line shocked the country.
Five others were injured in the accident late on Wednesday, which came as tens of thousands of distressed migrants try to get home after work – and after most public transport vanished overnight when India imposed a lockdown in late March.
The men were walking from the northern state of Haryana to their home state of Bihar hundreds of miles away, Abhishek Yadav, a senior police official, said on Thursday.
Neither the labour nor the road transport and highway ministries responded to the Reuters news agency’s requests for comment.
Dozens of migrant workers have fallen sick or died on their way home, either from fatigue or in accidents, underscoring the extreme risks the poor have been exposed to under measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
On Thursday, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said it was up to individual states to take care of the migrants, including providing them with freshly cooked meals.
“As regards migrants who are walking, it is very, very touchy and there is a tug at my heart when I watch this,” she said at a news conference as she announced a package of aid to help migrant workers.
“But it is up to state governments – from where they are moving to where they are moving – to make those provisions.”
Facing public pressure, the government has organised special trains and buses to transport migrant labourers home. On Thursday, it said more than a million people had reached their home states by train.
But Anindita Adhikari of the Stranded Workers Action Network, which helps such migrant labourers, said many were still trying to get home on foot because registering for the transport was too difficult.
“How you get a seat on these trains, informing people about train schedules to prevent crowding and increasing the frequency of trains – these things are needed,” she said.
The latest incidents came nearly a week after 16 migrant workers, who had fallen asleep on a railway track due to exhaustion from walking, were crushed by a train in Maharashtra.
Small bundles of food, footwear and other belongings were scattered on the tracks after the accident.
Another eight migrant labourers were killed and about 50 injured on Thursday when the truck they were travelling home in collided with a bus.
Two migrant workers and a baby were killed in a similar accident a day earlier.
Sitharaman said the government would spend 35 billion rupees ($463m) on food for nearly 80 million migrant workers for the next two months and offer employment under a rural jobs programme.