Skip to main content

Unwilling 'sacrifice': Who will be responsible for India's 884 non-Covid deaths?

By Simran Kaur, Vasundhra Kaul, Varsha Sharma, Sandeep Pandey*
While the entire world faced the threat of the coronavirus, India was witness to a peculiar phenomenon. Hundreds of migrant workers poured into the streets, despite explicit warnings – and passionate appeals – by the Prime Minister to stay indoors.
India saw numerous deaths during this time, many of which were not a result of the virus itself. This latter category was no less a tragedy, albeit, a preventable one. Instances of this “collateral damage” made it to mainstream media as well; the 16 forced off of roads by the police, who resorted to walking on railway tracks and were crushed in their sleep by an oncoming train, the 24 workers who died as their truck collided with another in Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh.
Through all this time, it is inexplicable why the Indian Railways was not pressed into service to transport people. The Indian railways is the largest such system in the world and have the astonishing capacity to move two crore people on any day from one part of India to another. Allowing the railways to transport migrant workers to their homes at the beginning of the lockdown period could have minimised this suffering.
Jamlo Madkam, a 12-year-old tribal girl from Chhattisgarh was walking with her family from Telangana but died before reaching her village. 48-year-old Tabarak Ansari was cycling from Bhiwandi, Maharashtra where he worked in a power loom factory, to his village Shishpur in UP but died of exhaustion on the way, in Madhya Pradesh.
His friend could not afford to bring the body home, and he was buried in an unfamiliar land. Krishna and Pramila Sahu, with their two infant children, left Lucknow for Chhatisgarh on a bicycle. They met with an accident on the way, causing the death of both parents. Amrish and Raju were on their way from Ghaziabad to Bihar on a motorcycle. They met with an accident near Varanasi, and both died.
When a Shramik special train arrived in Kanpur on May 24, three people, including a old woman and a youth, were found dead on it. More tragic was the death of Mohan Lal Sharma, a 38-year-old migrant worker from UP who used to work in Mumbai, whose body was discovered in a toilet of another Shramik special train after three days in Jhansi when it was returning from Gorakhpur.
Even as hospitals were gearing up to deal with the influx of Covid-19 cases, a lack of direction caused them to turn away patients with other ailments. Eight months pregnant Neelam died in an ambulance outside a hospital in Greater Noida after being turned away by 3 government and 10 private hospitals because of lack of beds.
The three-year-old son of a ward boy Manish Tyagi died after being turned away by 2 private hospitals in Lucknow. By the time the child was admitted to King George Medical University Hospital, it was too late to save his life. Manish, who was quarantined himself, could do nothing but watch helplessly from a distance. Ram Shankar, a farmer who met with a fatal hit and run accident in rural Hardoi, was moved around from one hospital to another over a period of 5 days before finally dying in the tenth hospital he was taken to.
Series of reasons behind the deaths hugely amount to negligence by hospitals both private and public. People are virtually left to their fate
By that time, the family had already spent Rs two lakh for admission and treatment. Eight-month-old Izan tested negative for COVID-19 and was admitted to KGMU Hospital, and died on the 13th day when milk entered his lungs after an MRI test. Even a ventilator could not save his life.
There are also many, many cases of impossible choices. 35-year-old Chhabu Mandal, originally from Bihar, who worked as a painter in Gurgaon was finding it difficult to make two ends meet. So he sold his mobile phone for Rs 2,500, bought food for his wife, her parents, and four children and then hanged himself to death.
A website has recorded 884 such deaths which took place for reasons other than Covid-19 during the lockdown period.
Who will be held responsible for these deaths? They have been called “sacrifices” by many, including by our Prime Minister. This is a particularly unfortunate word to use in the context of migrant workers, who often find themselves being made unwilling “sacrifices” for any number of reasons. Even in death, there is no true acknowledgment of their lives, and so, no dignity.
While the idea of justice is being sought from the courts during this pandemic, it is crucial to also demand accountability from the executive. Sections 124 and 124A of the Railways Act provide compensation for accidents and ‘untoward incidents’.
A related judgment was given by the Supreme, Court of India on May 9, 2018 in Union of India vs Rina Devi (Civil Appeal No. 4945 of 2018), which allowed for compensation to be paid for non-self inflicted deaths while boarding and de-boarding the train. The apex court considered death while getting on or off the train which was not self-inflicted to be an ‘untoward incident’.
Similarly, the deaths of migrant workers in these cases should also fall under the category of ‘untoward incidents’ and should be compensated under the head as per the Railway Accident and Untoward Incident (Compensation) Rules 1990.
There is a huge institutionalized imbalance of accessibility of justice for the marginalized in the county. The country really needs to reconstitute itself in terms of response to grave humanitarian crises like this. The series of unfortunate events rolling out pursuant to policy crises and decision making failures prove that Indian citizenship is highly graded.
The series of reasons behind the deaths hugely amount to negligence by hospitals both private and public. People are virtually left to their fate much worse is the inhumane conditions of hospitals which are overburdened with rapidly rising number of cases each day.
This highlights the sheer dismal state of healthcare in India which spends so less of it public expenditure on healthcare. There is a need for evolving a multidimensional legal framework for dealing with cases of compensation to be accorded to the victims.
As per the Railway Accident and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Amendment Rules, 2016, the compensation for death while traveling using the Railways has been enhanced to Rs. 8 lakhs. Although there is the Motor Vehicles Act for compensation in cases of road accidents, calculating the amount to be paid can take up a lot of time while the need of the families is urgent.
Moreover, no specific laws cover other mishaps like negligence and denial by hospitals, etc. What should be done is that the amount of compensation to be given by the Railways be extended to compensation under other heads as the indirect cause of death remains the same.
Therefore, the government should take cognizance of these deaths and pay compensation to the victims in a fast-paced manner given the vulnerable conditions of the families of these migrant labourers. Further, any action in this regard should be released in the public domain.
---
Simran Kaur is 4th year BA-LLB hons student at Punjab University, Chandigarh; Vasundhra Kaul is 5th year and Varsha Sharma is 4th year LLB students at National Law University (NLU), Delhi; Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winning social activist, is visiting Faculty at NLU, Delhi for this semester

Comments

Unknown said…
Hi All!

The corona virus pandemic has only exposed the rampant negligence, corruption and inadequacy present in Indian healthcare system that has always been present even prior to COVID - 19.

My family is also a victim of medical negligence. I’ve started a petition “Medical Council of India, Lilavati Hospital: Cancel License, expel Corrupt Nephrologist Hemant Mehta, Prashant Rajput who killed my Mom” on change.org

Request you to go through the petition and please sign the petition, it will only take you 30 seconds to sign it. Here’s the link:

http://www.change.org/p/medical-council-of-india-lilavati-hospital-cancel-license-expel-corrupt-nephrologist-hemant-mehta-prashant-rajput-who-killed-my-mom

Thanks!
Parag

TRENDING

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Gross 'injustice' to children: Rs 5000 cr cut in education budget; 15 lakh schools shut down

Counterview Desk  More than 100 dignitaries, including educationists, academia, social activists, teachers’ union, civil society organisations (CSOs), various networks and people working on child rights, in a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman have sought reversal of reduction in allocation for education in the Union Budget 2021-22, even as demanding substantial increase in it.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

RSS love for 'killer' Myanmar junta behind Indian military presence at Tatmadaw Day?

By Shamsul Islam*  If a shameful act means an action which is criminal and nauseating, it would be an understatement to describe the attitude of the present RSS-BJP rulers of India towards the demolition of democracy and large-scale killing of the people of Myanmar by the military ( tatmadaw ) junta which took power through a coup on February 1, 2021 after renegading the election results in which the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy, was a clear winner.

Chhattisgarh’s Apra riverfront imitates Sabarmati: 'Devaluing' water, environment

Sabarmati riverfront By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  This year’s #WorldWaterDay (March 22) focus was on ‘Valuing Water’. My school friend, Pragati Tiwari from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, called that day knowing my interest in water matters. We were remembering our childhood days as how we used to play on the banks and the bed of the Arpa Nadi (River) during the summer holidays and as how the river would swell like Anaconda to flow happily during the monsoon.

Bihar massacre on Holi day: Brahminical, casteist mindset behind 'uneasy' silence

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Several people were killed in Bihar amidst Holi festivities, but not much response has come in from the media. The silence of the government and the society as a whole is also appalling. We seek to romanticise these festivals, yet we forget that every year they take so many lives. This despite the fact that Holi appears to be the best time for 'avenging things'.

India's draft migrants policy: Whither concern on job restrictions imposed by states?

By Anil Kumar*  India’s Niti Aayog has prepared a Draft Migration Policy. The draft policy acknowledges migration as an integral part of development, and it calls for positive government interventions that facilitate internal migration. With a rights-based solution to migration, the draft states that the policy should “enhance the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.

Gujarat religious freedom amendment bill 'pursues' votebank politics, is anti-minority

Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja  By Our Representative  A Gujarat-based minority rights organisation, taking strong exception to the state assembly last week passing the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill, 2021, has asserted that the proposed law “is completely unconstitutional”, even as asking the Gujarat governor to give his accent to it.

Anti-untouchability move? Dalits to 'mint' brass coin to be laid beneath new Parliament

By Rajiv Shah Gujarat’s top Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, is all set to initiate a unique campaign under which families from different parts of the country will contribute a brass article or a utensil -- all of it will be melted and minted into a 1111 milligram diameter coin with the question engraved on it: Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be reality yin 2047?