Bengal allows 2 trains to carry back stranded people; Oppn targets it for going slow
Amid a spike in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), West Bengal has decided to go slow in bringing back migrant workers stranded in different states.
The state feels the return of so many people without Covid-19 tests needs to be planned with utmost care so that the infection does not spread to new areas through those coming back.
West Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha said no one coming from other states would be allowed to enter containment zones.
“So, if someone taking a train for Bengal hails from a containment zone, he or she cannot be sent home. Some other arrangement needs to be made and these require time,” Sinha said.
“It won’t be proper to allow lakhs of stranded migrants labourers all in one go. They need to be brought back in phases because detailed planning has to be made. Else every effort made till date will go down the drain,” Sinha added.
The state, however, has started the inter-district movement of migrant workers stranded in different parts within the state.
Despite the pressure being mounted on the government by opposition parties to fast-track the process of bringing back migrant workers, the government has so far given its nod to the entry of two special trains, one from Rajasthan carrying 1,200 pilgrims and the other from Kerala with migrant workers, to enter the state, as of Sunday evening.
The train from Rajasthan will originate from Ajmer and stop at two places in West Bengal—Durgapur in West Burdwan district and Dankuni in Hooghly district—on May 5. The train from Kerala will start on May 4. Bengal on Sunday asked the government of Kerala to share the details of every passenger before the journey starts.
While top officials of the state government remained tightlipped and there was no press briefing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Lok Sabha members of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left leaders have started contacting other states on their own to arrange for the return of the workers.
“I spoke to railway minister Piyush Goyal, who said that Bengal has not applied for any special train but has given consent to let only two trains to enter the state. We are afraid the Bengal government’s delay in arranging for the return of the migrant workers would worsen their plight,” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha and a lawmaker from West Bengal.
Senior BJP leaders alleged that they had contacted the administration in Karnataka to organise the return of migrant workers stranded there but that the Bengal government did not respond.
“Karnataka has already appointed an IAS officer as the nodal officer for dealing with the return of migrant workers to Bengal. But the state government did not contact officials in Karnataka as of Sunday evening,” Sukanta Majumdar, the BJP MP from Balurghat in West Bengal, said.
“Bengal’s dillydallying on the issue of bringing back migrant workers, who are our own people, is scandalous. The Centre’s is also behaving in an inhumane way by charging train fare from migrants who stand virtually penniless. The state needs to expedite the process and the centre needs to facilitate,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Md Salim said.