Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal lashed out at Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray early on Monday, alleging that the state government had provided the Centre with the details of only 46 out of the 125 “Shramik Special” trains that were to operate. Goyal’s retort came after Thackeray said on Sunday that the Maharashtra government had received only 40 out of the 80 trains it had asked for.
The Centre launched over 300 “Shramik Special” trains on May 1 to enable migrant labourers stranded at their places of work to return to their villages, amid a nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus. However, many migrant workers have continued to walk home or travel in private vehicles.
“Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra?” Goyal tweeted around 2 am. “As of 2 am, received list of only 46 trains of which five are to West Bengal and Odisha which cannot operate due to cyclone Amphan. We are notifying only 41 trains for today despite being prepared for 125!!!”
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, however, claimed that the state had sent the list to the Centre. He tweeted in response: “We have sent the list. The only request for Piyush Goyal is that the train should reach its destination. A train to Gorakhpur should not reach Odisha.” Raut was referring to a train that left Mumbai last week on its way to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, but ended up in Rourkela city of Odisha.
But Goyal continued to lash out, claiming that the Maharashtra government had been sending back trains empty. He said the Railway Ministry was willing to send as many trains as the state wanted only if it would not send them back empty.
“We are ready to provide 125 Shramik Special trains to Maharashtra,” Goyal said. “Since you have said that you have a list ready that is why I am requesting you to please provide all information like from where the train will run, the list of passengers according to the trains, their medical certificate and where the train is to go, to the General Manager of Central Railway within the next hour, so that we can plan the time of trains.”
Later, the railway minister said that no information was received from the Maharashtra government about the 125 trains that were to leave the state on Monday. “I hope that the government of Maharashtra will fully cooperate in the efforts made for the benefit of migrant labourers,” he said.
On Monday evening, Goyal stepped up his attack, claiming that the Shiv Sena-led government did not bring the passengers to the stations, even though 65 trains had been stationed in the state. “The reality is, Maharashtra Government has no list, no details of migrants, no clarity on who wants to go where,” the Union minister alleged. “It is a completely broken administration.”
Maharashtra is by far the worst-affected state in India, with 50,231 coronavirus cases as of Monday evening, including 1,635 deaths. However, this is not the first time Goyal has lashed out at a state government over the matter of “Shramik Special” trains.
On May 14, Goyal had got into a spat with the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, alleging that it was not operating enough trains for migrant workers. He claimed he was ready to provide 105 trains to West Bengal every day, but the state was taking in just 105 a month.