The collapse of an under-construction railway bridge in Mizoram’s Aizawl district has left several families in West Bengal’s Malda district distraught. All 23 victims, of whom 22 have been confirmed dead, hail from Malda. Search operations are on for the one missing person.
Thirteen victims were from Chouduar village in Malda, and, of these six from one family. As leaders across political parties visited Malda a political slugfest erupted over the deaths of the migrant workers.
On Thursday leaders of Trinamool Congress, including Ministers and West Bengal Migrant Workers Welfare Board chairman, Samirul Islam, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, visited Chouduar village. A pall of gloom has descended on the village where six members of a family, aged between 30 and 19, have been reported dead. While four of the deceased are from the Sattari Binodpur area of Englishbazar police station. the other victims were residents of the Gazole and Kaliachak police station areas.
The village is an assortment of thatched huts and has a population that survives on money sent by those working as migrant labour in different parts of the country. Those who died in Mizoram were earning between ₹500 to ₹700 a day, money which they cannot earn in West Bengal, villagers told journalists.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the condition of Indian Railways has touched a new low under the Narendra Modi government. “Indian Railways is now in deplorable condition. They (Centre) even slashed the budget for the Railways. You have to take responsibility for the people who died while working for you. We will obviously help the bereaved. I demand a job in the Railway for the next of the kin of each worker who died in the mishap,” Ms. Banerjee said. Arrangements have been made to bring the bodies to the State, she added.
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said the number of migrant workers from West Bengal in other States has crossed 50 lakh. “The lack of job opportunities in West Bengal is forcing the people of the State to opt for jobs in distant places. Some of these jobs pose grave danger to their lives. These opportunities are offered to them by middlemen as they provide labour at cheap rates,” Mr. Adhikari posted on X (formerly Twitter).
The Leader of Opposition said the workers do not possess the skills required for such jobs. “Yet they are left with no choice as the successive WB Govts have failed to generate employment opportunities nearby home,” he posted.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury visited the families of the victims in Malda district, and assured them of help. “Anywhere you go in this country, you will come across scores of migrant workers from Bengal, and a significant number of them are from Murshidabad and Malda districts. I understood this very well during the pandemic — from Arunachal to Gujarat, these migrant workers reached out to me for returning home,” he told reporters.
Earlier this year, on June 2 in the triple train accident involving the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, the Howrah-bound Shalimar Express and a goods train near Odisha’s Balasore, over a hundred of the 300 people who lost their lives were from West Bengal.