West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party chief Dilip Ghosh on Thursday said the deaths of some migrant workers on Shramik Special trains are “small and isolated” incidents and the Indian Railways cannot be blamed, PTI reported.

Nine migrants have died on board the special trains since Monday as the severe heatwave lashed most of northern India. A video of a child trying to wake up his dead mother at the Muzaffarpur railway station in Bihar was also widely shared on social media on Wednesday. It was the latest visual to emerge from the unprecedented humanitarian crisis of millions of migrant labourers affected by the extended lockdown in the country.

“Some unfortunate incidents have taken place,” Ghosh said in Kolkata. “But you can’t just blame the railways for it. They have been doing their best to ferry the migrants. Some deaths have taken place, but these are isolated incidents. We have examples of how railways have done their best to serve the passengers. Some small incidents have taken place, but that doesn’t mean you will close down the railways.”

Ghosh, also a BJP MP, said the current situation is not normal, according to Deccan Herald.
“Do train accidents never take place?” he asked. “Do people not die in trains?”

The Centre had started the special trains on May 1 to transport migrant workers back to their home states after they were stranded in different parts of the country during the coronavirus-induced lockdown from March 25. However, there have been reports of trains not only starting late, but also taking longer to reach their destinations. The Railways claimed the trains that were delayed by many hours taking unconventional routes, such as one from Mumbai to Gorakhpur that ended up in Odisha, were just involved in “route rationalisation”. Passengers have also complained about the lack of food and water on these trains.

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The Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked Ghosh to be more sensitive to the plight of the migrant workers. “This entire migrant issue is a result of the Centre’s mishandling of the Covid crisis and the lockdown,” TMC leader and MP Saugata Roy said. “So many people are dying, and BJP leaders are behaving arrogantly as if nothing has happened. Before pointing fingers at us, Dilip Ghosh should behave and speak sensibly.”

CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim said leaders like Ghosh want to remain in a “make-belief world” of the BJP. “The migrant labour issue has proved that the Modi government is unable to save human lives,” he said. “BJP leaders should be ashamed of the mishandling of the crisis by the union government.”

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Railways and the state governments cannot charge train or bus fares from stranded migrant workers waiting to return home. It observed that there were several problems in the process of registration, transportation and providing water and food to the migrants.

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