West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday asked the Centre to transfer Rs 10,000 cash as one-time assistance to each migrant labourer to help them overcome economic hardships they are facing due to the coronavirus crisis.
“People have been facing economic hardship of unimaginable proportions because of the ongoing pandemic,” Banerjee tweeted. “I appeal to Central Govt to transfer Rs 10,000 each as one-time assistance to migrant labourers including people in unorganized sector. A portion of PM-CARES could be used for this.”
Banerjee’s tweet came a day after her government claimed to have transferred Rs 20,000 to the bank account of each of those whose homes were destroyed by Cyclone Amphan. “I’m happy to share that GoWB [government of West Bengal] has transferred funds to nearly 5 lakh affected people for repairing their homes, released crop damage assistance to 23.3 lakh farmers, apart from 2 lakh betel farmers,” Banerjee had tweeted on Tuesday.
West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rahul Sinha, however, criticised Banerjee’s demand for a provision of Rs 10,000 for each migrant labourer, the Hindustan Times reported. “The Centre had to give several pushes to the state government to make it agree to allow “Shramik Special” trains in the state,” he said. “Migrant workers are angry with her because of her apathy. She is trying to skip her responsibilities of finding these workers alternative jobs.”
Hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers were stuck at their places of work after the Centre announced a countrywide lockdown in March to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many of them began walking home over thousands of kilometres on foot.
On May 1, the Centre launched over 300 “Shramik Special” trains to ferry migrants back to their hometowns. But many migrants did not, or could not, take these trains, and tried to go home on foot or in private vehicles. Some of them died on the way of illness or in accidents.
Banerjee had on May 27 lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led government. She claimed that the Railway Ministry had been “evacuating Maharashtra and spreading corona[virus] to Bengal”. The chief minister accused the Railway Ministry of sending ”Shramik Special” trains full of migrant workers to the state without prior intimation.
By Wednesday morning, India had reported 207,615 cases of the coronavirus, including 5,815 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.