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Fact Check: Did a migrant woman die of hunger at Muzaffarpur railway station?

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According to the relative of the deceased, they didn't face any problem in getting food and water and the woman was mentally stable.

Amid the migrant crisis due to nation-wide lockdown to combat coronavirus pandemic, a gut-wrenching video of a child trying to wake up his dead mother became viral on all the social media platforms. Many social media users including journalists like Rana Ayub claimed that the woman had collapsed at Muzaffarpur station due to hunger and died after traveling from Gujarat. 

Rana Ayub had taken to Instagram to share the video mentioned above. Her caption read, “Trigger alert. She had taken a train from Gujarat. A train that took multiple diversions, served no food onboard. At Muzaffarpur station, she collapsed of hunger and died. Her child here trying to wake his dead mother. How do we sleep at night? This is no death, this is a cold-blooded murder”. 

The video is of an incident when 35-year-old Arveena Khatoon, died on board the Ahmedabad-Katihar (Bihar) Shramik Special train. The family deboarded the train and the dead body was kept on the platform till an ambulance arrived to take it to her home in Katihar district. The video shows the child walking up to his mother’s body.

The Wire also put out a tweet saying that the relatives of the deceased woman have said that lack of food and water was the reason behind Avreena's death. The caption shared with a video report by Arfa Khanum reads, "Relatives of this woman, who boarded a Shramik Special train from Ahmedabad to Bihar, say that due to not being able to eat and drink, the woman got sick and died in the train itself."

A number of other media organizations including NDTV said, in their reports that 'lack of food and water' was the reason for woman's death. 

However, contrary to what these social media posts and media reports have claimed, Md. Wazir, Brother-in-law of the deceased woman gave a statement on camera where he said that they received food and water while traveling. He said, "My sister-in-law died suddenly on the train. We did not face any problem in getting food or water." You can watch the relevant section at 2:00 time stamp.

In this video, Ramakant Upadhyay, the Dy SP of the Government Railway Police in Muzaffarpur can be heard saying that the woman who was traveling along with her sister and brother-in-law, had died on the Madhubani-bound train was "mentally unstable”.

The Spokesperson of Railways had also issued a statement fact-checking viral news and confirmed that food and water are being provided to travelers. 

Following the outrage over the heart-breaking video of child playfully tugging a sheet partially covering his dead mother, it was taken as suo motu cognisance to the Patna High Court. Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar took note of a news report, and said, “this warrants intervention by us in the exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 226 and issue notice.”

According to a report by The Hindu“The court-appointed advocate Ashish Giri as amicus curiae and directed S.D. Yadav, Additional Advocate General-IX, who was present in the virtual court, to obtain instructions on all issues”. To which the Additional Advocate General responded saying that the news report was partially incorrect and that “The deceased was mentally unstable and had died a natural death during the course of her journey from Surat [Gujarat]. The deceased, who had been deserted by her husband, had only one child. Md. Wazir [her brother-in-law — sister’s husband] brought her death to the notice of the railway authorities and after the recording of his statement, the body was allowed to be taken home,”. It was also reported by him that no post-mortem had been conducted and FIR been filed, an ambulance was sent to the place by the district administration and the orphaned child is under safe custody."

This incident is only one of the many incidents showing the plight of migrant workers. In many other incidents where migrants died on board, family members have stated 'lack of food and water' as the reason for death. 

On May 23, a 46-year-old man died on a Shramik Express train whose 25-year-old nephew, Raveesh Yadav, alleged that he had nothing to eat or drink for 60 hours. Raveesh told local reporters, "my uncle, who was complaining of hunger and pain all over his body, fainted half an hour before we reached Varanasi Cantonment and died within a few minutes.” However, Ravi Prakash Chaturvedi, additional divisional railway manager, Varanasi, denied that no food or water had been served on the train.

A four-year-old boy, Mohammad Irshad also lost his life on May 25, allegedly after having cried out of hunger all day on a Shramik Special train. His father, Mohammad Pintu blamed railway authorities for the demise of his son. 

Did some trains take 9 days to reach the destination?

Recently, Hindi news daily, Dainik Bhaskar claimed in its report because of the delay of Shramik trains by the Railways, seven people had lost their lives. However, the Indian Railways rebutted this claim. The tweet by Railways spokesperson reads, "The report is filled with errors and half-truths. The 2 trains from Surat reached Siwan on 25th in two days time instead as reported 9 days. The Child was ill & returning from Delhi after treatment. The cause of death can’t be determined without post mortem."

In its clarification, Bhaskar spoke to Deputy Development Commissioner of Siwan who said that the train reached late as it lost its route. However, they didn't clarify whether it took 9 days or 2 days as claimed by Railways.

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