New Delhi: The West Bengal government on Saturday said eight special trains to bring back migrant workers who wish to return to the state because of the coronavirus lockdown have been scheduled as the issue became a fresh flashpoint between the state and the Centre
The announcement was made after union home minister Amit Shah wrote a letter to CM Mamata Banerjee, saying that not allowing trains to reach Bengal was an "injustice" to workers from the state.
Shah said the West Bengal government is not allowing trains with migrant workers to reach the state and this may further create hardship for the labourers.
Referring to the 'Shramik Special' trains to facilitate transport of migrant workers from different parts of the country to their home states, Shah said in the letter that the Centre has facilitated more than two lakh migrant workers to reach home.
He said migrant workers from Bengal are also eager to reach home and the central government is also facilitating the train services.
"But we are not getting expected support from West Bengal. The state government of West Bengal is not allowing the trains reaching to West Bengal. This is injustice with West Bengal migrant labourers. This will create further hardship for them," Shah wrote.
The TMC, however, accused Shah of "lying" about the state government not allowing trains to reach, and said the eight trains to ferry migrants from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Telangana were already planned.
The first train will be leaving on Saturday from Hyderabad to Malda, the TMC said.
"The Centre is lying, eight trains ready to ferry passengers to Bengal from different states: It is not right to say CM Mamata Banerjee is not allowing migrants to come back. Sixteen migrants died on your watch, will rail minister take responsibility," asked TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.
In a zoom meeting with several TMC MPs, including Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien, the TMC said the government is running 711 camps for migrants in the state and were taking good care of them.
According to the plan so far, 31,224 people will return to West Bengal, 17,211 among them from Hyderabad alone. "The Centre wants to embarrass our CM and gain politically in the state. They cannot tolerate her and that is why they are targeting us singularly," Dastidar said.
TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee also hit out at the home minister and accused him of misleading people. He also charged the Centre of failing to discharge its duties during this crisis.
"A HM failing to discharge his duties during this crisis speaks after weeks of silence, only to mislead people with bundle of lies! Ironically he’s talking about the very ppl who’ve been literally left to fate by his own Govt. Mr @AmitShah, prove your fake allegations or apologise," he tweeted.
This comes after Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, on Thursday said that he requested to Amit Shah to take steps so that workers, students and migrant workers of West Bengal, who are now stranded in various states, can return home. Chowdhury also alleged that the Banerjee government in West Bengal was not keen on getting these people back.