States rebut Goyal charge of delaying trains for workers

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal accused that governments of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are not giving permissions to run Shramik special trains trains

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal accused that governments of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are not giving permissions to run Shramik special trains trains   | Photo Credit: PTI

Opposition CMs say Shramik Specials have been cleared but not run

Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal sparred with the Opposition-ruled States on Friday, accusing them of reluctance to requisition trains for migrants in an attempt to shift the blame even as disturbing reports on the plight of workers forced to walk long distances to reach home continue to pour in.

“The Railways is ready to run 300 Shramik special trains daily to help workers reach their homes, but I am sad that governments of some States like West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, are not giving permissions to run these trains due to which workers have to suffer away from home,” Mr Goyal tweeted on Friday.

All the four States immediately countered Mr. Goyal’s statement.

Till Friday morning, the Railways had run a total of 1,000 such special trains. As per, the guidelines issued by Railway Ministry on May 2 laid the onus on the originating States to initiate requisition of the Shramik Special trains.

“The originating State will finalise the requirement of special trains in consultation with receiving States and communicate the requirement of special trains to the nodal officer of Railways,” the guidelines said. It further goes on to say that the Railways will “plan and run special trains based on the requirement given by originating State, subject to availability of rolling stock.”

Also read: Shramik Specials: railways say ‘sending States’ will have to pay ticket costs

Additionally, the consent of receiving State needs to obtained by the sending State, while providing a copy to the Railways.

Responding to Mr. Goyal, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said there was no permission pending for any train with the government of Rajasthan and he had been a strong votary for running trains to allow the workers to commute.

“But I am not surprised to see the statement by the Railways Minister, they are skilled in passing their failure on to the State government,” Mr. Gehlot tweeted.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren also rejected Mr. Goyal’s claim, saying his government has given NOC for running 110 trains whereas only 50 trains, carrying around 60,000 migrant workers had arrived in the State.

“Lakhs of migrant workers are walking on foot but Central Govt doesn't have any mechanism to send them to their homes. The Central Govt is just playing politics over the issue,” he said. Mr Soren also took a dig at Mr. Goyal saying that the Minister had not been briefed properly by the bureaucrats.

In his response, Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, the State had asked for 30 trains but had, so far, only got 14 trains. He also pointed out that the State had already paid ₹1.17 crore for the approved trains and that no other proposal was pending.

Mr. Baghel called the Railway Minister’s statement “baseless and factually incorrect”. He said once the 30 trains carrying the migrant workers reach, Chattisgarh will take stock of how many more persons from the State are stranded and will then ask for more trains.

“You are publicly making factually incorrect statement. The States are not responsible for the pain and suffering of the migrant workers. It is wrong to shift the blame on the State governments,” the Chief Minister said.

The blame game on stranded workers from West Bengal, began on May 9, with Home Minister Amit Shah’s letter to the State government, blaming the Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress President Mamata Banerjee for doing injustice to the migrant workers.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal claimed that there is a need to run 105 Shramik special trains every day to bring back workers to West Bengal, while the State government has allowed 105 such trains to run over the next 30 days. He drew a comparison with Uttar Pradesh — a BJP-governed State, stating that Uttar Pradesh has cleared 400 trains in less than 15 days and brought its workers home, while West Bengal has not even allowed eight trains to run as per its announcement last week.

Mr. Goyal was responding to a tweet by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee announcing that the State government has arranged for 105 such trains over the next month. He said as per estimates there are at least 30-50 lakh migrants from West Bengal migrants who want to go back to their homes. “This is a petty attempt to dupe the migrant workers from West Bengal, and the government there is running away from its responsibility to take the poor labourers home,” Mr. Goyal said in a tweet.

Former Railway Minister and senior TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi denied Mr. Goyal’s allegations.

“On March 26, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to 18 State governments, asking them to take care of the migrant workers,” he said. He said the procedure for scheduling the Shramik Special trains is for the State governments which has the migrant population to raise the demand, since only they know the quantum of population of the migrant workers adding that the state has never shied away from giving NOC for any trains.

West Bengal Assembly elections are due in April next year, Mr Trivedi said and added that it’s obvious that politics is being played out with an eye to the polls. “In this politics of train the important thing is India and we hope India doesn’t get derailed,” he told The Hindu.

The political clash over Shramik Special trains is also intense in Bihar, which is also scheduled to hold polls at the end of the year, with a key NDA ally, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) turning against JD(U)-BJP government.

So far 254 trains have been cleared for Bihar, of which 185 have reached the State.

Speaking to The Hindu, LJP president Chirag Paswan said, “Bihar has one of the highest population of migrant workers but proportionately Nitish Kumar ji’s government has not brought in enough trains. We haven’t had any trains from Maharashtra; even today I got a distress call from Surat,” he said. He added that majority of those who are dying in road accidents in their attempt to return home were from Bihar.

“I had spoken to Railway Minister Mr Goyal. The Union government is ready to arrange the trains but it is for the State government to take the initiative,” he added.

Congress leader Chandan Yadav, said that the Nitish Kumar government has miserably failed and has been totally exposed about their approach and attitude towards the most vulnerable section of the society. “They have done far too little and far too late,” he added.

The railways had started the migrant special service on May 1. Till Friday morning about 1,000 such trains were approved by various States for operation. These include 487 trains for U.P., 254 trains for Bihar, 79 trains for Madhya Pradesh, 50 trains for Odisha, 48 trains for Jharkhand, 22 for Rajasthan, ten for Chhattisgarh and nine for West Bengal.

Also read | Migrant workers, other stranded people to pay ₹50 more to get home

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 8:54:04 AM |

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