Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday told chief ministers of states and Union Territories that it is “human nature” to want to go home, referring to the attempts by migrant labourers to travel to their hometowns, the Hindustan Times reported. Modi was addressing a meeting via videoconferencing with all chief ministers to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
“We stressed that people should stay where they are,” Modi said. “But it’s human nature to want to go home and so we had to modify or change our decisions. Despite that, we have to make sure that the disease doesn’t spread and go to villages, that’s our big challenge.” The Centre has arranged over 300 “Shramik Special” trains to ferry migrant workers home.
Modi claimed the world has said that India has been successful in combating Covid-19. He credited state governments with playing an important role in containing the virus.
The meeting, which is Modi’s fifth consultation with chief ministers since a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, began at 3 pm and is still underway. The lockdown is scheduled to end on May 17, and an exit strategy is expected to be discussed at the meeting.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the first to speak at the meeting, assailed the Centre, accusing it of playing politics amid the pandemic, NDTV reported. She alleged that the Centre was playing favourites among states “according to a script”. “Nobody ever asks our opinion,” Banerjee said, the news network reported quoting unidentified officials.
The Centre and West Bengal have been at loggerheads over the past three weeks over the Covid-19 outbreak in the state. The Banerjee-led government took objection last month when the Centre sent inter-ministerial central teams to assess the coronavirus situation in the state. The teams also complained that the state government failed to provide them access to all areas. West Bengal has also been accused of understating the number of Covid-19 deaths, an allegation it has denied.
On May 9, Union Home Minister Amit Shah criticised West Bengal for blocking the entry of returning migrant workers. “The West Bengal government is not allowing trains with migrant workers to reach the state that may further create hardship for labourers,” the Union minister wrote to the Banerjee-led government, adding that it was “injustice” to the workers.
On May 6, the Centre rebuked the West Bengal government for not carrying out enough testing to detect the coronavirus, and for its high mortality rate.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who also attended the meeting, urged chief ministers to popularise the download of the government’s Aarogya Setu app, which can be used by people to find out their risk for the coronavirus, based on the locality they live in, their age, health status and other details.