Tussle over Shramik Special trains for migrants continues between Centre and states; NCP accuses Piyush Goyal of playing 'dirty politics'
A political slugfest over the Shramik Special trains for migrants workers is going on between Union railways minister Piyush Goyal and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government for the last two days, with the state alleging that not enough trains are being provided to it.
The allotment and frequency of Shramik Special trains for stranded migrant workers in various parts of the country have not only become a logistical nightmare but also a cause for trading barbs between Centre and those states which are ruled by opposition parties particularly the states of West Bengal and Maharashtra.
Maharashtra VS Centre
A political slugfest over the Shramik Special trains is going on between Union railways minister Piyush Goyal and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government for the last two days, with the state alleging that not enough trains are being provided to it.
This war of words on Twitter began with Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday criticising the Centre in a video briefing for not providing enough trains for the migrants to return home despite several requests. He also said the state was yet to receive the Centre’s share of the train ticket cost.
Railways minister Piyush Goyal hit back in a series of tweets over a span of four hours, saying Shramik Special trains that were planned to have originated from Maharashtra failed to do so because of the state's lack of preparedness.
He said 145 such trains were planned to be operationalised from Maharashtra on Tuesday, but less than 10 percent could actually run due to non-availability of passengers.
"Till 6 pm, 85 out of the 145 trains were to run from Maharashtra today (Tuesday), out of which only 27 could run due to non-arrangement of passengers by the state government. I request the Maharashtra government again to please help us take the poor labourers to their homes," Goyal tweeted.
महाराष्ट्र से आज शाम 6:00 PM बजे तक 145 में से 85 ट्रेनों को चलना था, जिसमें से राज्य सरकार द्वारा यात्रियों की अरेंजमेंट ना करने के कारण मात्र 27 ही चल पाई।
महाराष्ट्र सरकार से मेरा पुनः निवेदन है कृपया गरीब मजदूरों को उनके घर पहुंचाने के लिये हमारी सहायता करें।
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) May 26, 2020
Earlier, he tweeted, saying the railways had planned to run 50 trains from Maharashtra by 3 pm, but only 13 could be operationalised.
"On request of Maharashtra government, we arranged 145 Shramik Special Trains today (Tuesday). These trains are ready since morning. 50 trains were to leave till 3 pm but only 13 trains have due to lack of passengers," Goyal said.
"The Maharashtra government has tried to politicise the difficulties of migrant labourers," he further alleged.
Earlier, the railways had issued statements, saying it had planned 125 trains for evacuating migrants from Maharashtra on 25 May, but the state government was only able to give information for 41 till 2 am.
"Out of these 41 trains, only 39 could run as passengers could not be brought by local authorities and two trains had to be cancelled," it said.
"After meticulous planning and sustained efforts, the railways mobilised its resources at very short notice and prepared 145 Shramik trains to depart from Maharashtra on 26 May," a statement issued by the national transporter said.
"Till 12 noon, 25 trains were planned to run from Maharashtra but no departure could happen due to lack of passengers. Boarding for the first train could only commence at CSMT at 12.30 pm," it added.
According to the railways, 68 trains from Maharashtra were planned to depart for Uttar Pradesh, 27 for Bihar, 41 for West Bengal, two each for Odisha and Tamil Nadu and one each for Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Kerala.
Taking a dig at Goyal, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut tweeted on Monday, saying, "The Maharashtra government has given you a list of the workers who wish to return home. The only request is that the trains should reach the station, as announced earlier."
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
Meanwhile, Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday also alleged that the Railways sent 34 trains to Maharashtra to ferry migrant workers to West Bengal despite the eastern state requesting the Centre not to send any trains till 26 May in the aftermath of cyclone Amphan.
WB govt wrote to @VinodRailway on May 22 asking movt of Shramik Special trains be stopped till May 26 as WB is coping with aftermath of #AmphanSuperCyclone. Yet @RailMinIndia sent 35 trains to Maharashtra for WB.
Playing with human lives to score political brownie points?
— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) May 26, 2020
Nawab Malik, another NCP minister in Maharashtra, held Goyal responsible for migrants gathering in large numbers at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai on Tuesday, expecting that north-bound trains will arrive there.
He said that state government have followed the Centre's protocol to take permission from Nodal officers of different states for movement of the migrants.
"Centre's protocol to take permission from Nodal officers of different states for the movement of migrants was followed by us. Railway department was unable to fulfil the criteria of plying 150 trains daily. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is trying to cover up Railway department failure," said Malik.
Mr @PiyushGoyal, you said that you have alloted 49 trains for migrants from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai.
The DRM at LTT says only 16 trains can be released.
You must come clear on this issue,
stop playing dirty politics and mind games @PMOIndia@OfficeofUT@PTI_News@ANIpic.twitter.com/uSAPjpnldy
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) May 26, 2020
Kerala expresses its displeasure to Centre
On Tuesday Kerala joined this political slugfest attacking the Centre for sending a train from Mumbai without intimating it.
"Indian Railways decided to send a train from Mumbai to Kerala. No info about it was passed to Kerala Government. It was taken up with Railway Minister. We said that this would undermine measures taken by our govt to ensure proper monitoring&control spread of COVID-19 ," said Chief Minister Vijayan said the matter has been sent to Narendra Modi for notice, reported ANI.
West Bengal asks Centre not to send trains till 26 May
Maharashtra was not the only state which has an issue with the Centre over these special trains.
Earlier this month, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the railway ministry, in a letter dated on 22 May, not to send Shramik Special trains to the state till 26 May in view of Cyclone Amphan.
West Bengal has received the least number of Shramik Special trains. Home Minister Amit Shah, in a letter, had alleged that Bengal was not allowing its migrants to return. Later, it was decided that the consent of the destination State was not required to operate these trains.
Since 1 to 23 May, over 2,000 Shramik Special trains have been operated, ferrying over 31 lakh migrant workers. Around 25 trains have terminated in Bengal so far.
With inputs from agencies
According to the data, the R-value of Mumbai stands at 1.09, Chennai at 1.11, Kolkata at 1.04 and Bengaluru at 1.06. The Reproduction number or R refers to how many people an infected person infects on average
Mumbai reported less than 400 daily COVID-19 cases after a gap of six days and witnessed only one fatality for the first time since 31 August
Maharashtra's COVID-19 recovery rate stands at 97.06 percent, while the fatality rate is 2.12 percent