The centre is not receiving expected levels of support from the Bengal government over return of stranded migrants, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today. In his letter the Home Minister also accused the Bengal government of not allowing “shramik (worker)” trains run by the Railways to reach the state and declared this to be an “injustice”.
Mr Shah pointed out that the centre had, so far, helped over two lakh migrants return home amid the coronavirus lockdown and warned the Bengal government that non-cooperation would create hardship for its migrants.
“… 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 labourers. This will create further hardship for them,” Mr Shah wrote.
The centre and the Bengal government have clashed frequently amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country, with an IMCT (inter-ministerial central team), which visited the state to review its handling of the crisis, this week accusing Ms Banerjee’s administration of taking an “antagonistic view”.
In its observations on Monday, the team said the high mortality rate in the state was a “clear indication of low testing and weak surveillance, tracking”.
The centre has also accused the state of violating lockdown guidelines and failing to ensure critical measures like social distancing.
Last week, reportedly fearing a political backlash over the migrants’ crisis, the centre permitted travel of stranded people, providing they displayed no COVID-19 symptoms and underwent a mandatory quarantine period on arrival.
The first such “special” train to Bengal set off from Rajasthan’s Ajmer this week – bound for Durgapur via Asansol – carrying 1,200 migrant workers.
Shortly after the first train was announced Ms Banerjee tweeted that a second would bring back a similar number of people stranded in Kerala.