One of the survivors of the Aurangabad train accident on Friday said the group of migrant workers had applied for e-transit passes a week ago but decided to walk towards their home state after not receiving any response from authorities.
Sixteen workers were killed on Friday morning after they stopped for rest on the railway tracks in Aurangabad. They had walked 45 km from Jalna to Aurangabad, and were going towards Bhusawal, another 120 km, on foot in hopes of catching a train.
Dhirendra Singh, one of the three survivors, said they had pending work and family back at home and so were unable to wait any longer to reach MP.
“We had applied for e-passes a week ago with authorities in MP but got no response,” said Singh, who is from Maman village in Umaria district of the state.
Singh survived the accident as he was walking at a distance from the rest of the group, which sat down on the rail tracks to rest and then fell sleep. They were mowed down by a passing goods train at 5.15 am.
The tracks were strewn with footwear and other personal belongings. Even the rotis carried by the workers for their journey were seen scattered around on the tracks.
Singh said he and the two other survivors frantically raised an alarm to alert their group members sleeping on tracks about the fast-approaching train, but their shouts went unheard.
Among those killed were 12 migrant labourers from tribal-dominated Shahdol district while the rest were from the neighbouring Umaria district. One labourer was injured in the mishap. All of them were employed at an iron factory in Jalna.
E-passes required for migrant workers and others stranded because of the lockdown have been causing problems as there have been several complaints that the portal either does not provide a response or an invalid pass.
The central government last week had agreed to run "Shramik" special trains for migrants who need to return home for emergency reasons after 40 days of lockdown, but many have started walking back on their own due to issues with getting clearances.
The online link for e-passes provided by MAP-IT, the online authority of MP government issuing e-passes, was defunct on Friday.
Officials said the server is facing issues due to a sudden influx of e-pass applicants in the last few days. “We will fix the technical issue,” an officer said.
The MAP-IT has claimed that till now there have been 1.79 lakh applicants and over 99,000 have been issued passes while 3,400 applications have been rejected. The facility has registered 2.21 lakh migrant persons as of now.
But reports also suggest that touts have started duping people on the pretext of early e-passes. Social activist Ajay Dubey claimed that the slackness of bureaucrats is responsible for incidents like the one at Aurangabad and demanded that guilty officers be booked. “Those responsible for bringing back labourers from other states hardly pick up calls,” he said.
MP BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari said there is some backlog due to the volumes. “The MP government has brought back around one lakh migrant labourers and others from elsewhere and the numbers of those sent away is slightly less,” he said.
Kothari also sought to place the blame on the Maharashtra government, questioning why the labourers were walking on tracks unlike those in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and others.