A 50-year-old migrant worker died on-board a Shramik Special train from Rajasthan to West Bengal, triggering panic among other passengers who travelled with the body for more than eight hours, police said on Sunday.
Buddha Parihar, who hailed from Harishchandrapur in Malda district, used to work at a hotel in Rajasthan's Bikaner. His brother-in-law Saraju Das also worked with him at the same hotel.
Parihar, survived by his wife and two children, was working in Rajasthan for nearly 20 years, his family said.
Parihar and Das lost their jobs due to the coronavirus-triggred lockdown, and their multiple attempts to return to Malda failed even as they were running out of money. They finally succeeded in boarding a train around 11 am on May 29, police said.
He died on the train around 10 pm on Saturday when it was near Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh, they said.
The death triggered panic in the compartment with people suspecting that Parihar might have died due to COVID-19 and the co-passengers might contract the disease, police said.
Railway doctors and other staff attended after the train reached the Malda station around 6.40 am on Sunday, an Eastern Railway official said.
The body was then handed over to the Government Railway Police (GRP).
The railway official said that Das, in a written statement, said that Parihar was suffering from tuberculosis and he had given him medicines when he was feeling unwell during the journey. But Parihar did not survive.
Later, the matter was handed over to the Englishbazar Police Station, which has started an investigation into the incident and sent the body to Malda Medical College for postmortem, a senior police officer said.
"We used to work at a hotel but as soon as the lockdown started we lost our job. We didn't have any money left and tried to return home several times but couldn't. In the meantime, Buddha fell sick. Finally, we boarded the train on May 29. But he died on the train mysteriously," Das said.
Malda District Magistrate Rajarshi Mitra also confirmed that Parihar had tuberculosis.
Das, who accompanied him, will be tested for coronavirus, he added.