Odisha train crash: Injured migrant workers stare at uncertain future

The Coromandel Express was carrying several migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha to Chennai.

Published: 10th June 2023 08:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th June 2023 10:30 AM   |  A+A-

Suraj Kumar

Suraj Kumar with his mother and brother at SCB Medical College and Hospital I Express

Express News Service

CUTTACK: Babbi Devi is relieved that her 18-year-old son Suraj Kumar survived the Bahanaga train accident but the woman from Basgadha village in Munger district of Bihar is now staring at uncertainty.“Will my son be able to walk’’, she asks. Suraj, who is undergoing treatment at the SCB Medical College and Hospital, is the sole bread earner for his three-member family after his father Mohan Yadav passed away two years back in a truck accident.

He worked at a ‘goshala’ in Secunderabad earning Rs 5,500 a month of which he used to send home Rs 4,000. On the fateful evening, he was travelling ticketless in a general coach. In the rush following the derailment, he was thrown out and suffered severe injuries on his head, back and fractured his leg. He had to undergo surgery at the MCH.

“We have received compensation of Rs 2 lakh but the money will go into his further treatment after he is discharged from here. If he does not recover soon, where will I arrange money to feed him and his siblings (a 5-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter),” she said.

The Coromandel Express was carrying several migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha to Chennai. Many suffered grievous orthopedic and head injuries and some were even maimed for life. All of them share Devi’s concerns. Uncertain about when they would return to work or if they would be able to work at all, the injured migrants said the ‘one size fits all’ kind of compensation would not be of much help.

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Bottle Mandal, a labourer from Purnia, got a compensation of Rs 50,000 at FM MCH at Balasore where he was initially admitted after being rescued from the general coach of the train. His hand has been partially severed. He shifted from the MCH to a private hospital in Bihar where he has already paid Rs 40,000 for surgery to treat his hand. “I have been begging the doctors to fix my hand. Because if I lose it, there is no one else to fend for my five-member family,” said Mandal, who works as a labourer in Chennai.

Director (migration) of Aide et Action International Umi Daniel said Coromandel Express is referred to as a ‘migrant train’ as it carries an informal workforce from east to south India in large numbers. Stating the government should now focus on livelihood recovery and social security of migrant workers who are critically injured or handicapped, he suggested the Centre also needs to check how many of them are registered in the eSHRAM portal.

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Labour commissioner N Thirumala Naik said if any construction labourer of the state registered under Odisha Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board was affected in the mishap, financial assistance will be extended to them apart from government compensation.

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