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

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.

Union budget 'mum' on relief to marginalised communities facing climate change impact

Counterview Desk  ActionAid, an international advocacy group which claims to work for a world without poverty, patriarchy and injustice, has wondered if the Union budget 2023-24, which is being acclaimed for providing succour to the middle classes, has anything to offer to the India's poor. In a statement, it said, while the budget may have "prioritised inclusive development", the financial outlay for ensuring it "does not show the zeal as hoped." Stating that the Finance Minister said Rs 35,000 crore revenue would have to be "forgone" due to a reduction in personal income taxes, "fiscal prudence is not enough to expand public employment, social security, welfare, education and health expenditures considerably." "The need of the hour is to raise revenues through the reduction of revenues forgone and innovative mechanisms such as wealth tax on super accumulation of wealth", it added. Text: The Union Budget 2023 has given significant

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

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".

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

New rules to make lakhs of tribals vulnerable to summary eviction: NAPM tells MPs

Counterview Desk  The top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has said that the new Forest (Conservation) Rules 2022, pending in Parliament and may be passed any day in the current Budget session, needs to be “strongly opposed” in Parliament. These Rules will allow easy diversion of forest land for projects and companies without the consent of gram sabhas and will allow the eviction of forest communities without the recognition of forest rights”, it alleged.

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i

FSSAI 'refusing to empower' citizens to have their right to informed choice on GMO

Counterview Desk  The advocacy group Coalition for a GM-Free India in response to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India's FSSAI’s) “weak forms” for licensing of GM foods, has insisted on the need to have “strong regulations to ensure safe food for citizens”. Stating that this form is different from the FSSAI GM draft regulation which had come out recently for which it had shared its response, the NGO network said in letter to Pushp Vanam, joint director, Science and Standards, FSSAI, it is problematic that these forms were not shared at the same time as the GM regulation draft as it would have enabled more people who read and respond to it. Text: This is in regards to the notification from FSSAI asking for inputs on the forms. We find it problematic that these forms were not shared at the same time as the GM Regulation draft as it would have enabled more people who read and responded on the regulation draft to have been able to comment on the forms too. Our response to the