Bengal denying trains to migrants, it's injustice: Shah to Banerjee
Trains meant to ferry migrant workers to their home states sparked a battle between political adversaries Amit Shah and Trinamool's Mamata Banerjee with the former writing a letter today underlining that Banerjee's government was doing "injustice". The BJP leader lamented the Centre was not receiving "expected levels of support" from the state government as far as the smooth return of migrant workers is concerned.
Migrants walked home, Centre allowed trains last week
Weeks after the coronavirus-linked nationwide lockdown started on March 25, the Centre finally woke up to the migrants' plight and ran Shramik special trains to send them home. The special trains started last week after the Centre received flak for letting the migrants cover thousands of kilometers on foot. States were asked to coordinate and were also given the responsibility of screening the migrants.
Bengal's decision will create hardship for laborers: Shah
Now, in the letter, Shah told Banerjee that the Centre facilitated the return of nearly 200,000 migrant laborers, and those from Bengal also want to go home. "We are not getting expected support from West Bengal. The state government is not allowing trains to reach. This is injustice for West Bengal migrant laborers. This will create further hardship for them," Shah's letter read.
Yesterday, migrant workers were run over by goods trains
Ironically, this letter comes a day after 16 migrant workers, walking home from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh, were crushed to death by a goods train in Aurangabad. Their tragic death was mourned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Madhya Pradesh's CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced an ex -gratia of Rs. 5 lakh each for families of the deceased.
States asked migrant workers to not take risky paths
After the accident, states requested migrant workers to stay put and not embark on risky journeys. Thackeray assured migrant workers they would get food and medicines at camps operated by the district administrations, urging them to not leave till train schedules are informed to them. And BJP's Chouhan requested migrant workers to keep patience till the time state administration gets in touch with them.
This week, Karnataka suspended trains, re-started them after outrage
Notably, this week, Karnataka's CM BS Yediyurappa suspended train services after speaking with builders, who complained of labor shortage. They told Yediyurappa starting economic activities without laborers is impossible. But the BJP leader's decision received flak forcing Yediyurappa to take a U-turn. Manjunath Prasad, the nodal officer overlooking the operations, said approximately five trains will be running daily after getting consent from receiving states.
Bengal and Centre clashed over low testing, high mortality rate
The migrant crisis is the latest flashpoint between the Centre and West Bengal. Recently, the state government was berated over its handling of the pandemic and was accused of hiding crucial data. In a letter, the Union Home Ministry pulled up the Bengal government for not testing enough. It was underscored that the mortality rate is 13.2% in Bengal, the highest for any state.
Centre's memo mentioned problems faced by health workers
"This is a reflection of poor surveillance, detection, and testing. There is also a need to increase random testing in crowded clusters. Instances of problems faced due to ostracism of health care professionals and lack of quarantine facilities are also worrying," the letter added.
Earlier, the movement of trucks had sparked another war-of-words
In fact, on Thursday, MHA Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla shot off a separate letter to the government directing it to not stop trucks' movement along the Bangladesh border. Reportedly, Trinamool-backed labor unions stopped trucks' movement across the border in Petrapole on May 2. In response, Trinamool claimed the charges were false and said the Secretary was trying to "please his political bosses in Delhi".