Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday that there was a need to operate 105 “Shramik Special” trains to West Bengal per day, but the state government was taking in just 105 a month. His remarks were in response to a tweet by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that she has arranged for 105 additional special trains to bring back migrant workers from their places of work, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel sad that while there is a need for 105 trains/day to bring back migrants to West Bengal, the state is accepting only 105 trains over 30 days,” Goyal said in a tweet. “I once again hope for the sake of Bengali brothers and sisters in different parts of the country, that West Bengal will accept them back with open arms.”
Goyal added that if West Bengal did not accept its migrants, there could be many more cases of migrant labourers and their children walking home for hundreds of kilometres, or using dangerous means to try to get to their hometowns. He said the Banerjee-led government should speed up the process of setting up adequate arrangements to get the migrants home.
He claimed that the state had allowed only seven ‘Shramik Special’ trains while Uttar Pradesh has “cleared” 400 such trains. While West Bengal is ruled by the Trinamool Congress, Uttar Pradesh is under a Bharatiya Janata Party regime.
Goyal said that after a tweet he made on Wednesday, the West Bengal government “woke up” and allowed a paltry seven trains to run.
Goyal alleged that Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were also not allowing enough trains to enter, ANI reported. Incidentally, all three are Congress-ruled states.
The Centre started operating over 300 “shramik special” trains from May 1, following criticism from the Opposition about migrant workers stranded in different parts of the country. The workers had attempted to get home in March after the Centre announced a nationwide lockdown, but had been stopped at state borders.
India has so far recorded 78,003 cases of Covid-19, including 2,549 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.