Jhansi,May 29, 2020: The body of a 38-year-old migrant worker was discovered in the toilet of a train at Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi Railway Station on Thursday evening. The body had likely been lying there for several days - while the train completed a round-trip trip - before it was found by railway workers who were sanitising the coaches.
The body has been identified as Mohan Lal Sharma, a resident of eastern UP’s Basti district. Mr Sharma worked as a daily wager in Mumbai but, like lakhs of other migrants, was left without a job or money by the abruptly-enforced lockdown NDTV reported.
Mr Sharma managed to reach Jhansi on May 23, after which he and other migrants looking to return home were sent by the district administration to the station to board a train to Gorakhpur, which is around 70 km from Basti.
It is not clear if Gorakhpur was the final destination or whether the train crossed the border into Bihar to return migrants from that state - official clarification on this point is pending.
However, the same train returned to Jhansi on Wednesday and, as railway workers proceeded to sanitise the coaches on Thursday, they were shocked to find Mr Sharma’s body.
"Jhansi Police called the village pradhan (chief) and we got to know then that he (Mr Sharma) had been carrying Rs 28,000, a bar of soap and some books. He wanted to come home because there was no work," Kanhaiya Lal Sharma, a relative, said.
"We were given the option by police to collect the body from Jhansi," he added.
Cops have confirmed that a post-mortem is being conducted on Mr Sharma’s body and it will be handed over after the results of the COVID-19 test are released.
Over 20 lakh migrants have returned to UP over the past two months, with several lakhs more expected in the days to come, leaving the state with multiple challenges - to screen and quarantine them, to provide food and shelter and, lastly, to ensure they get employment.
The deeply distressing incident at Jhansi comes two days after heart-wrenching visuals from a Bihar railway station showed a baby playing with a shroud thrown over its dead mother, as people appear to go about their business without a second thought.
The treatment of migrants and daily wagers desperately trying to return home, traveling hundreds (often thousands) of kilometres with little or no money and food, has become one of the abiding images of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Thursday the Supreme Court, which had earlier said it was "impossible" for it to monitor this humanitarian crisis, directed the centre to come up with a "uniform" policy on migrants’ travel.