170 and counting: Migrant workers killed by the lockdown
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170 and counting: Migrant workers killed by the lockdown

Their deaths went largely unnoticed unmourned, their stories untold. But they shouldn’t.

By Chahak Gupta

Published on :

In late March, when prime minister Narendra Modi locked India down at four hours’ notice, he left an estimated 10 crore migrant workers stranded where they had moved for work. As they started to run out of food and money, the workers were forced to leave for their hometowns and villages, the only places that held some promise of a semblance of dignified existence.

Absent any means of public transport, most walked home, some for over 1,000 km. Some cycled, hitchhiked, and paid for private trucks. Many died along the way, perishing to hunger, exhaustion, speeding vehicles and trains, and, lately, criminal negligence of the Railways. A few took their own lives.

They died as they had lived: in anonymity. Save for a few that sparked momentary social media outrage, the deaths of these migrant workers went largely unnoticed and unmourned, their stories untold.

But they shouldn’t.

Here then is a list of the migrant workers who died after the lockdown was imposed in late March. It’s by no means exhaustive – we are still trying to identify several migrant workers whose deaths have been confirmed and it's highly likely that many deaths haven’t been reported yet. We’ll update this list as and when more information becomes available.

Ranveer Singh, 39

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He worked as a deliveryman in Delhi. He walked about 200 km before collapsing from exhaustion. He died along the way, 80 km away from his home in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena, the Quint reported.

Ramesh Bhatt, 55; Nikhil Pandya 32; Naresh Kalasuva, 18; Kaluram Bhagora, 18

Cause of death: Accident

They were part of a group of seven workers that was run over by a truck in Maharashtra’s Virar on March 28. They had been turned back from the Gujarat border. They were all from Banswara, Rajasthan. “Ramesh was married and has two children and worked at a canteen in Vasai,” the Indian Express reported. “While Nikunj worked at Goregaon, Bhagora worked in Vasai and Naresh worked in Bhandup.”

Nitin Kumar, 26

Cause of death: Accident

Nitin was run over by a bus near Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, while he was walking home in Rampur from Sonepat, Haryana. Kumar worked in a shoe factory in Sonepat, according to the Quint.

Sukhlal, 40

Cause of death: Accident

The labourer was run over by a car in Gwalior on March 29. He worked in Delhi and had walked about 350 km towards his home in Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh. He was crossing the road in search of food for himself and his family when he was run over, according to reports in Rajasthan Patrika and Outlook.

Punit, 20; Dharambir, 21; Jogender, 20

Cause of death: Unknown

They were walking from Gurugram to their hometown in Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha district. Their bodies were found buried in a 15-foot-deep pit in Sakatpur, Gurugram. The cause of death is not known, Times of India reported.

Aldrin Lyngdoh, 20

Cause of death: Suicide

The young man from Shillong, Meghalaya, was found hanging on the terrace of an eatery in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where he worked. He had allegedly been told to leave by his employer when the lockdown closed the eatery. In a suicide note found by the police, he said the employer ignored his pleas for help, according to reports in the Telegraph and the Times of India.

Roshan Lal, 22

Cause of death: Suicide

The Dalit worker had returned from Gurgaon to his village in Lakhimpur district of Uttar Pradesh. He allegedly committed suicide in the school where he was quarantined. In an audio clip allegedly recorded by him, he claims that the police beat him brutally in public for not following the quarantine norms, prompting him to take his life, the Indian Express reported.

Zubair Ahmed, 18; Riyaz Ahmed, 19; Ghulam Mohiuddin, 30

Cause of death: Severe cold

They hailed from Hinghal village in Ramban district. Zubair and Riyaz worked at an eatery in Kashmir, Mohiuddin was a labourer. “Denied passage through the Jawahar Tunnel to their homes in Jammu, a group of migrants working in Kashmir took a perilous detour through the snowclad higher reaches of the Pir Panjal range – a decision that proved fatal for three of them, and left another seriously injured,” the Indian Express reported.

Pedada Srinivas Rao, 21

Cause of death: Suicide

He was found hanging from a tree at the Bapatla bus station in Andhra Pradesh on April 3. In his suicide note, he held the Vedullapalli police responsible for his death. He had left Chittoor, where he worked, on a bicycle and was headed home in Krishna district when the police detained him. Though he was released the same night, the Bangalore Mirror reported, his bicycle was not returned to him. “Police have irresponsibly left me here,” he said in a video shot shortly before his death. “The Vedullapalli police are responsible for my death.”

Lokesh Balasubramani, 23

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He walked 500 km from Nagpur, Maharashtra, towards his hometown in Tamil Nadu, but died while resting at a shelter on the way. Satya, one of the 25 people who had set out on foot from Nagpur with Lokesh, told NDTV, “We were walking for the last three days. There was no transport. Random people gave us food. Someone gave us a lift, like truckers going back after dropping supplies. The police were beating the drivers for helping us.”

Vilas Mahto, 40

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Vilas worked as a construction worker in Allahabad, UP. Having lost his job because of the lockdown, he started on foot to his village in Bihar. Vilas covered 250 km before collapsing on the road. His brother-in-law, Mishri told the Telegraph, “We would walk, eat, rest and walk again. For food, we had chura-gur and sattu mixed with water. We also managed to get food in villages close to the highway. A couple of times we got rides for short distances on trucks that were moving to different places in Uttar Pradesh.”

Mohammad Aamir, 24

Cause of death: Suicide

Aamir was found hanging in his Hyderabad home on April 13. He was a car mechanic and had been out of work after the lockdown was imposed. He had reportedly been trying to find a way home to Bihar, but to no avail.

Binod Yadav, 45

Cause of death: Suicide

After reaching his village in Kamrauli in Darbhanga, Bihar, from Delhi, Binod was quarantined in a school. There, he took his life, the Times of India reported.

Mukesh, 30

Cause of death: Suicide

Mukesh had a wife and four children. On April 16, he sold his phone for Rs 2,500. He bought ration and a table fan for his wife and kids, before killing himself. He worked as a house painter and lived in Gurugram, the Times of India reported.

Boya Rangadu, 45

Cause of death: Heart attack

Boya was travelling with his family and fellow migrants from Achampet, Telangana, to his home in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool when they were stopped and detained by the police, according to the News Minute. Boya was soon shifted to Guntur’s General Government Hospital after the police noticed his health worsening. He died of cardiac arrest.

Ashok Kumar, 24; Rajju Devi, 18

Cause of death: Suicide

“A 24-year-old man quarantined at an isolation centre near his village in Uttarakhand after he returned from Punjab was on Thursday found hanging from a tree with his wife in the first purported case of twin suicides over harassment related to the Covid-19 outbreak,” the Telegraph reported on April 17. “Police said Ashok Kumar was a labourer and had been prevented from going home when he returned from Punjab on April 4, although he had no symptoms. A relative told reporters his wife was being pressured to leave their village, Tipparpur.”

Ramji Mahto, 45

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Ramji drove a water tanker in Delhi. After the lockdown, he set on foot to his native town in Bihar. He walked for about 850 km to reach Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, where he collapsed on an overbridge. The police called an ambulance but no one was willing to touch Ramji “fearing he might have contracted the coronavirus”, according to the Telegraph. He was declared dead on April 17.

Jamalo Madkam, 12

Cause of death: Exhaustion

An Adivasi girl from Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, Jamalo had gone to work on a chilli plantation in Telangana a few months ago, the Indian Express reported. After the lockdown was announced, she started walking back to her village. She had walked 100 km before she collapsed and died on April 18.

Kaleshwar Rajwade, 21; Gulab Rajwade, 20

Cause of death: Accident

They were walking from Pendra-Marwahi-Gaurela district, Chattisgarh, along railway tracks to reach their village in Surajpur district, Chhattisgarh when they were run over by a train on April 21. They had sat down on the tracks to have breakfast, according to the New Indian Express.

Tabarak Ansari, 50s

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He was returning home to Uttar Pradesh from Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi on a bicycle. He was part of a group of 10 labourers, one of whom, Ramesh Kumar Gond, later told NDTV, “We all lost jobs in the powerloom unit in Bhiwandi and were left with no money and no food, so we decided to cycle our way back to Maharajganj, but just when we had completed around 350 km of the journey, Tabarak suddenly complained of dizziness and fell from the cycle on the road.”

Nogen Rabha, 45

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Nogen, a labourer, started walking from Nagaland, where he worked, to his home in Golaghat district, Assam. He covered about 170 km before dying of exhaustion in Assam, according to the Telegraph.

Motilal Sahu, 38

Cause of death: Exhaustion

The migrant worker from Madhya Pradesh walked 60 km on an empty stomach, collapsed in a jungle and died. He worked as a house painter, the Times of India reported.

Hari Prasad, 26

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Hari Prasad completed the journey of about 100 km from his workplace in Bengaluru to his village in Andhra Pradesh, but fell ill within a day of reaching home. He died soon after. He tested negative for Covid-19. The probable cause of death was exhaustion, according to the News Minute.

Vikram Singh, 65; Bhooli, 60; Badrilal Banjara, 33

Cause of death: Accident

The three labourers were stranded amongst others in Jaisalmer for several weeks and were brought back to their hometown in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh by the government. They were sleeping on the road near a temple, just a kilometre away from their home, when they were run over by a truck, New Indian Express reported.

Abdul Aziz, 35

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He walked about 140 km from Telangana towards his hometown in Tamil Nadu before collapsing on the road. The police found him and took him to a hospital, where he died, the New Indian Express reported.

Amarsingh Manohar Marai, 40

Cause of death: Suicide

He was walking from Hyderabad to his home in Maharashtra, but midway committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree. “Apparently, he lost his will to complete the remaining part of the journey and decided to end his life,” Inspector Mahendra Suryawanshi at the Girad police station was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

Gopal Pandey, Gunjan, Usha Devi, Sunil

Cause of death: Accident

Gopal and Usha were headed towards Patna. They covered 400 kms from Ranchi on a bicycle before hitching a truck at Naugachia district of Bhagalpur. The truck met with an accident in Naugachia. Driver Gunjan and helper Sunil also died in the accident, NDTV reported.

Dharmveer Kumar

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He was cycling from Delhi to his home in Bihar but died of exhaustion en route. He tested negative for coronavirus, according to the Indian Express.

Tapan Sethi, Chitranjan Sethi

Cause of death: Accident

A bus ferrying migrant workers from Surat collided with a barricade, killing Tapan and Chitranjan, and injuring many more. They were going home to Odisha, according to the New Indian Express.

Ram Sakhi, 33; Roshni, 14; Laxmi, 5; Kailash, 20; Shibvaran, 17; Ruchi, 8; Madan Mohan, 40

Cause of death: Accident

Madan Mohan was driving the other six, all labourers, in his autorickshaw to Jajjan Pati, Gopalpur, from Uttar Pradesh after being told they would find a bus there for Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh. A truck carrying watermelon collided with the auto, killing the migrant workers and the auto driver. Two other labourers in the autorickshaw were injured, according to the Times of India and the Hindustan Times.

Ravi Munda, 40

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Ravi, from Jharkhand, was stranded in Nagpur. He walked for 400 km and collapsed on a road in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. He was taken to a local hospital where he died. “Munda was travelling to Jharkhand – mostly walking – along with seven others,” Bilaspur’s police superintendent Prashant Agarwal was quoted as saying in the Hindustan Times.

Raju Sahni, 40

Cause of death: Exhaustion

Raju cycled 55 km from the power plant that he worked at in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, before collapsing on the road. He was headed to his village in Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh.

Raju’s wife, Indravati, told the Indian Express, “Exhaustion did not kill him, his helplessness to meet his family in such times of crisis did. We could not even see him one last time.”

Sundar Rai, 21; Buddhinath Rai, 23

Cause of death: Accident

“Sundar Rai had convinced his family that his job would give enough money to save for his sister’s wedding. Buddhinath Rai had told his father that work outside the state would help them make ends meet. Both youths, belonging to the same panchayat in Jharkhand’s Godda district, left their homes in February,” the Indian Express reported. “In March, the Centre imposed the lockdown to contain Covid-19. In UP’s Bhadohi, Sundar and Buddhinath grew restless as money ran out. On May 2, they set out for home on foot with 14 others. After walking more than 200 km, they entered Bihar on May 5 and hitched a ride on the roof of a truck. In less than three hours, the truck hit a bridge, leaving Sunder and Buddhinath dead and two others injured.”

Harikishan, 40

Cause of death: Suicide

Harikishan, from Bihar, was found hanging in his room in Delhi’s Dwarka after the police allegedly prevented him from selling vegetables.

“It’s not easy feeding a big family. When the lockdown was announced, we were shattered as he lost his job at a construction site. His employers didn’t even pay him. We thought we would have to beg or go back to our village in Bihar but he said he would work,” his wife, Ahilya Devi, told the Indian Express. “Within weeks, he bought a cart and started selling vegetables. It was going good before the police intervened. They said my husband was violating social distancing norms and restricted him from selling vegetables.”

The police, however, refuted the allegation. “We didn’t stop anyone from selling vegetables but a few RWAs had restricted entry of vegetable vendors. When we found a few vendors violating social distancing norms, we restricted them from selling vegetables. Vendors who continued selling vegetables were then charged for violating lockdown rules,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior police officer in Dwarka as saying.

Harikishan lived with his father, wife, and four children.

Babulal Singh, 48

Cause of death: Exhaustion

He started his journey from Belgaum, Karnataka, towards his hometown in Jharkhand with 10 fellow workers. After walking about 100 km, he collapsed. He was taken to a hospital by the police but died soon after, according to the Times of India.

Raju Lodhi, 45

Cause of death: Suicide

A labourer from Uttar Pradesh, he was found hanging from a tree near a dyeing unit in Rajkot, Gujarat. His colleagues told the Times of India he had been disturbed by not being able to go home. He was reportedly also running out of food.

Krishna Sahu, 45; Pramila, 40

Cause of death: Accident

Krishna and Pramila, along with their two children, were travelling on a bicycle when they were hit by a vehicle at Lucknow. They were travelling from Uttar Pradesh to their home in Chhattisgarh, according to the New Indian Express.

Ramashray Shivratan, 36

Cause of death: Suicide

On May 8, Shivratan threw himself in front of a train in Rajkot after failing to catch the last Shramik special train for migrant workers. He wanted to go to his hometown in Uttar Pradesh, according to the Times of India.

Asif Iqbal Mondal, 22

Cause of death: Suicide

Out of work after the lockdown, Asif Iqbal was waiting to go home to Bengal from Kerala on a Shramik special train. But, an acquaintance of his told Deccan Chronicle, Asif didn’t have the money to get on the train and, therefore, in “utter frustration” he killed himself.

Fuldev Bhuyia, 35

Cause of death: Accident

Bhuyia worked as a mason in Kolkata. He was walking to his village in Jharkand’s Chatra district when he was run over by a vehicle.

“My husband bought a bicycle to carry his belongings. He cooked chapatis, and kept rice and utensils to cook it using wood fuel and set out on his foot,” his wife Tetri Devi told the Indian Express. “I spoke to him last on Friday night…The next day, we were informed of his death.”

Sangheer Ansari, 26

Cause of death: Accident

He left Delhi on a bicycle with five of his friends on May 5 after being unable to find work because of the lockdown. They had covered half the distance and sat down for a meal when a car hit him, NDTV reported.

Ajit Kumar Rai, 38

Cause of death: Suicide

Ajit was found hanging at his rented flat in Ludhiana, Punjab, on May 9. His wife told the Indian Express that he had been depressed after not getting ration for more than 10 days. The police claimed it was the outcome of a domestic feud with his wife.

“We were struggling to get rations. My husband called the police and on other helpline numbers but we got nothing,” his Savita told the Indian Express. “There was no ration since 8-10 days and we were struggling. We were borrowing from others. Since the pandemic started, my husband had no work.”

Lalluram, 55; Prem Bahadur, 50; Anees Ahmed, 42

Cause of death: Exhaustion

They set out on a journey from Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh, mostly on foot. “Their health deteriorated when they reached near Sendhwa on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border,” the Hindu quoted a police official as saying. They were taken to hospital but they didn’t respond to the treatment.

Atar Singh

Cause of death: Exhaustion

A group of 11 migrant workers walked 300 km from Gangotri, Uttarakhand, to their homes in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Soon after reaching his village, one of the workers, Atar, fell sick and died, NDTV reported.

Gangaram, 40

Cause of death: Suicide

Gangaram had migrated to Gurugram from Madhya Pradesh two years ago and worked on construction sites. Reportedly, he was out of job after the lockdown and worried about not being able to feed his family of five. His body was found hanging from a tree on the Gurugram-Faridabad border, according to the Times of India.

Faisal Abbas, 28; Suraj Kumar, 32

Cause of death: Accident

They worked in a private company in Delhi. They lost their jobs after the lockdown and decided to go back to their villages in Uttar Pradesh on a bike. On the way, they collided with a standing truck and died, according to Live Hindustan.

Javed

Cause of death: Accident

On the morning of May 11, an NDTV reporter spoke with a group of migrant workers going home to Lucknow in a goods carrier. He also spoke with the driver, Javed. That same evening, the reporter found the vehicle overturned by a roadside at the Mumbai-Nashik highway. It had been hit by a car. Javed had died, and several of his passengers had been injured.

Parshuram, 42; Rahul, 22

Cause of death: Accident

They were killed, and seven fellow labourers injured, when the truck they were travelling in overturned at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh on May 11. They were headed to their hometown in Maharajganj district, Uttar Pradesh, from Hyderabad, PTI reported.

Shivkumar Das, 25

Cause of death: Accident

He was cycling, along with several other migrant workers from Bulandshahr to his hometown in Bihar. He got hit by a car, and died instantly, according to NDTV.

Mukesh Kumar, 19

Cause of death: Suicide

Soon after Mukesh Kumar, who worked as a daily wage labourer at Solapur Steel Plant, reached his Bhanwri village in Jharkhand after travelling from Solapur, his parents asked him to go to a quarantine facility. He left without saying anything. He was later found hanging from a tree near his village, New Indian Express reported.

With inputs by Abhyudaya Tyagi and Pratik Waghmare.

Note: The report erroneously mentioned the cause of death for Gunjan, Gopal Pandey, Usha Devi, and Sunil as "exhaustion" instead of accident. The error is regretted.

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