Bitter fight between Piyush Goyal, Uddhav Thackeray over Shramik trains
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal locked horns over Shramik special trains on Sunday. The Shiv Sena chief claimed he asked Centre to send more trains, but the request wasn't entertained. Later, Goyal put out a series of tweets, one of them posted around 2 am, saying Railways hasn't received any list. Here's what went down.
In March, when industries were shut and construction activities halted, because of the coronavirus-necessitated lockdown, migrant workers suffered. Rendered jobless, they wished to get home but were stuck in the absence of transportation. They started walking, some dying on the way. The government finally woke up to the humanitarian crisis and started trains from May 1 to ferry them home.
As the Centre drew ire from all quarters, it put the blame on states. When she was revealing details of the Rs. 20 lakh crore economic package, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said sending and receiving states have to arrive at a consensus. The CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant, also said states should have done a "much better job". Meanwhile, states flagged their problems.
In an address to the state, Thackeray declared Maharashtra sought 80 trains from Centre daily for migrant workers but was getting merely 30-40. In 481 trains, over seven lakh migrants were sent home, and the entire cost (Rs. 85 crore) was borne by the state, he said. Soon, Goyal, a member of BJP which was close to forming a government with Shiv Sena, responded.
In a series of tweets, Goyal asked Thackeray to provide details of passengers, destination stations, health certificates, etc. "This information must be communicated with the General Manager of Central Railways in an hour so we get time to prepare. The trains shouldn't run empty," he wrote. "We are ready to provide 125 Shramik special trains to Maharashtra," another tweet read.
Goyal followed it up with another tweet reading, "Sadly, it has been 1.5 hours but Maharashtra government has been unable to give required information about tomorrow's planned 125 trains to GM of Central Railways." The BJP leader said Railways didn't receive any list 2.5 hours later too. The list wasn't given at 12 midnight, and neither was it handed over at 2 am.
"Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra? As of 2 am, received a list of only 46 trains of which 5 are to West Bengal and Odisha which cannot operate due to cyclone Amphan," the last tweet of the thread read.
Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra? As of 2am, received list of only 46 trains of which 5 are to West Bengal and Odisha which cannot operate due to cyclone Amphan.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) May 24, 2020
We are notifying only 41 trains for today despite being prepared for 125 !!!
Meanwhile, the Central Railways also released a press note saying it had to cancel 65 trains because of the lax attitude of Maharashtra government. "Planning trains is an elaborate process, which requires time and unless lists are given in time, Maharashtra government will make it impossible for Railways to run the train," the note read. Thackeray's predecessor Devendra Fadnavis slammed him for blaming Centre.
Soon, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut also waded into the row saying Maharashtra government handed over a list to Railways. "Piyush Ji there is only one request please ensure that trains should reach stations that they are supposed to reach," he said, referring to the bizarre turn of events where a special train, bound for Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh), reached Odisha's Rourkela, some 750 kilometer away.
महाराष्ट्र सरकार ने रेलवे मंत्रालय को अपेक्षित गाड़ियों की सूची दी है। पीयूष जी @PiyushGoyal से सिर्फ विनती यही है कि ट्रेन जिस स्टेशन पर पहुंचनी चाहिए उसी स्टेशन पर पहुंचे। गोरखपुर के लिए जाने वाली ट्रेन उड़ीसा न पहुंच जाए।— Sanjay Raut (@rautsanjay61) May 24, 2020