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India's migrant worker crisis: Toddler tries to wake dead mom as they travel miles to get home

Several migrant workers have died during the ongoing national lockdown in India. The latest victim was a dehydrated mother.

India's migrant worker crisis: Toddler tries to wake dead mom as they travel miles to get home
Image Source: t_d_h_nair / Twitter

Trigger Warning: Disturbing Images

In India, the whole country was placed on a national lockdown with mere hours of notice in light of the public health crisis. Though the initial lockdown was supposed to last only 21 days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since extended the lockdown a total of three times. Meanwhile, migrant workers across the country are struggling to find ways to get home and feed themselves. Some were forced to walk thousands of miles in order to reach home. When the government finally started train services after recognizing their plight, it soon became apparent that the migrant workers were not being given food or water to sustain themselves during several days-long journeys. In an appalling video, a toddler is seen trying to wake his mother after she passed away due to dehydration, Indian media outlet reports.




In the video, a blanket is seen draped over a woman's body. A young child approaches the body and picks up the blanket. He plays with the blanket in an effort to wake the woman, who was later identified as his mother. The toddler only moved away from the mother when another older child approached him, lifted him up, and dragged him away. The incident took place in Muzaffarpur railway station in the Western state of Bihar. The family was traveling from the state of Gujarat, located in the Eastern region of India. After some investigation, it was revealed that the mother passed away as a result of heat, hunger, and dehydration on Monday.



Across India, a heatwave is making the journey back home insufferable for millions of stranded migrant workers. They travel across the country, leaving behind their homes and families in order to make a living. Over the past few weeks of the lockdown, some have been lucky enough to get tickets on government-run train services (a difficult and long-drawn process that requires several clearances) to get back home. Others, however, have resorted to walking. Though the family in the video was able to acquire seats on one of the trains, they were not given food or water during the journey. Like them, dozens of other migrant workers have been condemned to the same experience.



The video has been widely shared online in order to bring attention to the poor conditions in which migrant workers are traveling home. The country's politicians have since demanded answers for the government oversight. Gaurav Pandhi, the national coordinator of the opposition party Congress’ social media operations, blamed Railway Minister Piyush Goyal for the mother's tragic demise. "These are institutional deaths, Piyush Goyal, you and your government [are] to be blamed," he stated in a tweet. "Shame on you!" Political advisor Sanjay Yadav asked, also in a tweet, "This mother died of hunger and thirst after being on a train for four days. Who is responsible for these deaths on trains? Shouldn’t the Opposition ask uncomfortable questions?"




For many migrant workers, the ongoing public health crisis has only exposed, to the rest of the country, already-existing failures in infrastructure and social services. This was their reality long before the pandemic even set in. The central government has thus far remained mum about the small but deadly tragedies that the country's poorest and most vulnerable are subjected to on a daily basis. When India gets ready to open its economy again, who will drive its wheels of progress forward? Who will board these trains of hardship to face, yet again, their own subjugation? The government owes its citizens answers.



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