One hundred and ninety eight migrant workers lost their lives in road accidents during the lockdown period, according to data compiled by the SaveLIFE Foundation, a road safety NGO.
There were at least 1,461 accidents over the course of the nationwide lockdown – from March 25 to May 31 – in which at least 750 people were killed, including 198 migrant workers. There were 1,390 who got injured, according to the data.
Migrant workers, killed during their efforts to go back home, comprise 26.4% of the overall deaths during the lockdown whereas essential workers comprise 5.3% of the total deaths. The overall deaths involving other other road users stands at 68.3 percent.
The report contributes fatigue among bus and truck drivers, hired to transport migrants, combined with over speeding and poor engineering of roads as the top reason for deaths.
Out of the reported deaths, Uttar Pradesh accounted for over 30% (245) of the total deaths followed by Telangana (56), Madhya Pradesh (56), Bihar (43), Punjab (38) and Maharashtra (36).
The top five states that reported road crash deaths of migrant workers are Uttar Pradesh (94), Madhya Pradesh (38), Bihar (16), Telangana (11) and Maharashtra (9).
To be clear, the report says that the data has been compiled using media-tracking and multi-source verification.
Further analysis reveals that around 27% of the victims were migrant workers whereas 5% were essential workers like police, doctors, and others. About 68% of the overall deaths involved pedestrians, two-wheelers and three-wheelers – categorised as Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs).
“Since the lockdown began, nearly 200 migrant workers have lost their lives while walking, cycling back home, traveling in HMVs and LMV commercial vehicles, and in mass fatality crashes involving state-organised buses. One of the recurring reasons for mass casualties in most of the incidents was speeding and driver fatigue due to continuous driving on tenuous routes,” the report said.
Out of the four phases of lockdown, phase four was the deadliest overall in terms of road deaths with 322 deaths (43%) and phase three was the deadliest in particular for migrant workers. Phase three reported 60% of all migrant deaths in road crashes during lockdown followed by phase four with 19% of total migrant deaths reported in the media.
“With Covid-19 still very much around, we simply can’t afford to burden our already overburdened healthcare system with road crash related trauma. The data collated by us suggests that there has been a surge in road crashes with lifting of the restrictions across the states in Phase 3 and Phase 4. It is critical that states enhance enforcement to prevent road crashes and the citizens inculcate essential safety habits for the road like they did for personal hygiene during the lockdown,” said Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation.
According to the report, vehicle-on-vehicle collisions constituted the highest crash configuration with 43% of all road crash deaths. In 15% cases, speeding was highlighted as a factor, though it is likely that speeding was involved in most fatal crashes though not highlighted in the media reports tracked, it said. Pedestrian rundowns constituted 9% of the total death toll.
The union home minister had issued several communications to states to ensure that migrant workers do not have to walk back to their home states. On May 15, union home secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to states instructing them to urge migrants to take the Shramik Special trains, which are currently in operation.
“In case they are found in such conditions, they should be taken to nearby shelters, appropriately counseled and provided food and water till such time they are facilitated to board the Shramik Special trains or buses to their native places,” Bhalla had said, adding that incidents of migrants walking back to their homes were still being reported from across the country.
So far, more than 56 lakh migrants have been sent back home in Shramik Special trains, according to the ministry of railways.
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