Skip to main content

Ministry of Railways 'Disposes Of' my RTI request regarding deaths on (Shramik) trains

Similar to the Vande Bharath Mission that was launched by the Indian Government to repatriate Indian nationals stranded abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic (when regular flight operations were banned across the country), the Government of India launched the much-needed project to enable reverse-migration of its nation's most destitute - our migrants. Migrant labourers who are typically from rural parts of India, due to a loss of income, livelihood, coupled with a fear of catching the virus and 'wanting to die at home', began walking back to their villages, at times 1000s of kilometres away. With all trains and buses ceasing operations, their journey was on foot, in back of trucks, and has resulted in many deaths. At the same time, it has shown their grit and determination with heart-breaking stories of people like the
15-year-old girl who cycled 1200 km with her father to reach home.


After not even acknowledging the problem for over a month, the Government launched special 'Shramik' trains to ferry migrants home, or at least get them closer to home. Although the demand for Shramik trains is (thankfully) on the decline in the first week of July, 5.2 million passengers have been ferried between the 1st and the 28th of May. A shocking statistic at the same time is that there were 80 deaths on Shramik trains between the 9th and 27th of May and officials claimed that all were because of natural causes. The BJP's (ruling party) leaders claimed that the issue is being politicised and that none of the deaths was because of starvation or hunger but just 'natural causes'.


The shockingly high number of deaths (of people between the ages of 4 and 95 years), did not seem right. I ran a google search to find out the number of deaths that have taken place due to natural causes inside trains between January 2019 and 2020 but could not find any data. The only articles that showed up while conducting multiple google searches were about 0 deaths taking place due to accidents in 2019-20. Due to the lack of data regarding deaths available on the public domain, I went ahead and filed a Right to Information (RTI) request with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.


I asked two questions in my RTI request:


1. The number of deaths due to natural causes within trains between January 2019 and 2020.

2. The total number of passengers ferried in trains during the same period.


The question held public importance, and a straightforward response was expected.


Although I ended filing the RTI request with the wrong public body, as usual, it was transferred to the Ministry of Railways. 

The Right to Information Act, 2005, mandates a response within 30 days. 

On the 30th day, I finally received a 'response', if one can call it that. It said was that the matter doesn't pertain to either the DIG/ RPSF (Deputy Inspector General/ Railway Protection Special Forces). 


This has raised a few questions:

  • Most RTI responses are made well before the 30-day limit.
  • The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation transferred the RTI to the 'correct body' (the Ministry of Railways) in two days. Despite that, no satisfactory response has been given.
  • Why did the Central Public Information Officer take 30 days to provide such an unsatisfactory answer? If the matter does not 'pertain' to them, they could have disposed it of earlier. 

I believe that the Government does not want to respond to the RTI question for whatever their reason may be. However, I cannot and will not accept the matter being disposed of.

An appeal has been filed with the Ministry of Railways

About an hour before publishing this post, I have filed an appeal to seek redressal on the matter and get justice - in this case, it being an answer to two simple questions to compare it with what I assume is a shockingly high number of deaths on Shramik trains due to negligence on the Government's part and raise awareness for accountability about the same, if so be the case. 


I shall keep you updated with updates on the matter as I receive them!


Follow me on Twitter (@sanjith_rao)!


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Data and quote(s) sources:

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/80-people-have-died-on-shramik-trains-between-9-27-may-report

https://scroll.in/latest/963812/coronavirus-no-deaths-on-special-trains-caused-by-hunger-or-starvation-says-bjp


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Visiting the Kasturinagar (KA-03) RTO - a tumultuous but manageable experience to get a Learner's/ Driver's License without an agent/ driving school

Ask anyone, and I can guarantee that they will have a story (and in most cases, many stories) about their trip, or rather, numerous trips to the RTO for something as simple as getting a Learner's License (LL) or a Driver's License (DL). In this blog, I hope to make your life a tad bit easier by guiding you through the entire process, which may seem easy at first but is full of (overcome able) challenges if you know what you are doing. I turned 18 in January this year, and besides cutting a cake, I worked on my LL application online. I challenged myself to complete the entire LL to DL process by myself and without the help of an agent or a driving school, unlike what the majority do. The lengthy application process and multiple visits to the RTO, impressed upon me why most people decided to pay a little extra to get an agent to do it for them. Still, I was determined not to pay a single rupee more than the official cost. I succeeded.  Do note that this answer is concerning the K

Kicking off a 'political career' in an idea-based, grassroots level political party

Despite having been following politics for the longest time, and now studying it full time, I never joined a political party. When people used to ask me "who do you support?", my answer was standard, "no one". Luckily for me, ever since turning 18 and being eligible to vote, there hasn't been an election in which I'd be forced to cast my vote and tell people that I have made a definitive choice about a particular political party. At a time when politics has become ever so polarising and dirty, I couldn't be happier to associate myself with the BNP. It was in February 2020 that I was introduced to the Bengaluru NavaNiramana Party. I found their vision, leadership and ideas incredibly refreshing. Though I was aware of their launch/ kickoff meeting that took place in Freedom Park in early 2020, due to a friend's TEDx talk taking place simultaneously, I could not attend. Then, between Board Exams and the lockdown that took us all by surprise, I forgot ab

Opinion on the Tax Rebate - Budget 2019

Source The Union Budget of India that was presented on Feb 1, 2019 was a populist-vote bank driven one filled with proposals to woo all possible stakeholders who are eligible to vote. Be it farmers, the middle class or the economically stronger ones, all sections of society after a brief glance at the highlights of the budget will be content with what Piyush Goyal has to offer in the sixth and final Budget of this term of the NDA. Although I found many parts of the budget a questionable waste of money to fuel populist schemes, I did enjoy certain parts of it, especially the newly introduced tax rebate. The proposed tax rebate  in which income upto INR 5 lakhs is essentially tax-free is one that I wholly welcome for many reasons. The tax-rebate proposal and terms is something that I welcome unconditionally but the way how the Finance Minister has portrayed income up to INR 6.5 lakhs tax free (with the disclaimer that this is only possible if all the 'right' investments ar

The Young Adults Series at the Bangalore International Centre

 November 2020 With France reimposing lockdown restrictions, closing universities, and restricting people's movement to just 1 hour per day, I decided to fly back to India. My rationale was simple; rather than attending online classes in a foreign city, with no roommates, no extra-curricular activities during which I would have usually interacted with people, and it being illegal to meet anyone you are not living with, it made more sense to return to a safer environment in which I could enjoy more freedom, as Bangalore was in a pretty good state, at least compared to France.  While waiting to board my flight at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and came across a post published by the Bangalore International Centre . Clickbait-ly titled  'MUN Ki Baat'  (for those who don't get the reference: PM Modi has a monthly radio show called 'Man Ki Baat'), it piqued my curiosity, and I found myself watching a recording of it. When I in

Why shows like Shark Tank are extremely misleading

Shark Tank is an American reality TV show in which " Aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world pitch their business models to a panel of investors and persuade them to invest money in their idea." . It was started in 2009 and is currently in its ninth season. The show revolves around entrepreneurs who pitch their idea to a group of 4-6 investors and hope to secure an investment from at least one of them. While the idea behind this show is not only to provide a platform for entrepreneurs to win an investment but also improve and inspire young minds who watch this show, the show is extremely misleading. In each episode, about five startups pitch their ideas to the panel. Each entrepreneur begins by introducing themself, their venture and their ask (eg. $100,000 for 10% stake). This is followed by the panel of 'sharks' questioning them about their product/idea/revenue/future plans and likewise. After this, potential investors either agree to invest or

A three episode podcast on the Right to Information Act - an introduction and two anecdotal experiences

I have been noticing a new trend of podcasting which seems to be gaining a lot of traction. In this day and age when people's patience and ability to read long texts is slowly diminishing, podcasts are unarguably a brilliant way to disseminate information. I recorded myself without a pre-written script. Further, please ignore the minimal amounts of ambient noise. This is an amateur attempt at making a podcast and has been made with entry-level recording tools (read: basic earphones with mic). This 3 part series deals with the history and personal anecdotal experiences of filing an RTI under the RTI Act, 2005. Part 1 deals with the history and introduction. Part 2 is with respect to an RTI filed on the expenses incurred on the MPLADS by P.C Mohan, MP from Bengaluru South. Part 3 is an RTI filed on the legality of the Aadhaar card as date of birth (DOB) proof in the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) of Karnataka. Please note that you will be redirected to a third party we

Yulu Miracle - app based electric scooters

Those of you who live in Bangalore, especially in places such as Indiranagar, Koramangala and Whitefield may have noticed different looking and noiseless blue scooters whizzing past you as you are stuck in traffic. These new scooters that can be hired through a mobile app called Yulu are used by all age groups. Currently, a majority of people (including me) use it for joyrides rather than optimizing their travel. For those of you who still have no idea, refer to the picture above! These electric scooters that are provided by Yulu are known as 'Miracles' and can be hired per 10 minutes through their app that can be downloaded on the Play Store as well as the App Store . Having clocked at least 15 hours on these exciting new scooters in the past few weeks, I have many stories to tell.   Although there is more awareness about these scooters today, as close as three weeks ago, barely anyone had any idea about it. Riding these scooters were fun and the closest I coul