The war of words between the Centre and the Maharashtra government took another turn on Tuesday night when a few ministers from the state government picked holes in Union Minister Piyush Goyal's statement over the Shramik Special trains to the state.
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh 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 May 26 in the aftermath of cyclone Amphan.
Nawab Malik, another NCP minister in Maharashtra, held Railway Minister Piyush Goyal responsible for migrants gathering in large numbers at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai expecting that north-bound trains will arrive there.
The Railways earlier in the day had accused the state of not providing information about passengers as a result of which many Shramik Special trains could not be operationalised. Railways Minister Goyal, in another pot shot, said while 145 daily trains were demanded by the Shiv Sena-run MVA government and 50 trains were to leave till 3pm, but only 13 of them were actually able to leave due to lack of passengers.
Malik, the state's Minority Affairs Minister, held Goyal responsible for the gathering of migrant workers at the train terminus in Mumbai.
"Migrant workers are stuck at the LTT for want of 49 trains which were declared, but the Railway Ministry is not letting any train go from there. Goyal and the Centre are deliberately playing politics," said the NCP national spokesperson.
It was declared earlier that 49 trains will be sent from LTT, but the divisional railways manager later said not more than 16 trains will be sent, Malik alleged. "Send those 49 trains. The number of passengers is increasing and Goyal will be solely responsible for it," he added.
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 @ANI pic.twitter.com/uSAPjpnldy— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) May 26, 2020
Deshmukh also hit out at Goyal for allegedly claiming that the Maharashtra government did not send migrant workers despite the availability of trains.
"West Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha had written a letter to the railway administration on May 22, saying no train be sent to West Bengal till May 26. Despite the letter, the railway administration sent 34 trains to Maharashtra today. They (the Centre) wanted to embarrass Maharashtra by doing so," Deshmukh said in a video message.
"Today he (Goyal) is saying Maharashtra has not sent migrant workers despite the number of trains made available to it. He should not lie and play such type of politics during such a situation," he added.
The Railways earlier on Tuesday said it had planned 125 trains to evacuate migrants from Maharashtra on May 25 but the state government was only able to give information for 41 trains till 2 am.
"Out of these 41 trains, only 39 trains could run as passengers could not be brought by local authorities and these two trains had to be cancelled. After meticulous planning and sustained effort, the Railways mobilised its resources at a very short notice and prepared 145 Shramik trains to depart from Maharashtra on May 26," it said in a statement.
"Till noon, 25 trains were planned from Maharashtra to run but no departure could happen due to lack of passengers. Boarding of the first train could only commence at CSMT at 12.30 pm," it said.
According to the Railways, 68 trains were planned to depart for Uttar Pradesh, 27 to Bihar, 41 to West Bengal, one each to Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Kerala, and two each to Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
Over the past two days, a political slugfest over Shramik Special trains had broken out between Goyal and the Maharashtra government, with the state alleging that not enough trains were being provided to them.
Goyal on Sunday night said, "We are ready to provide 125 Shramik Special trains to Maharashtra. Since you have said that you have a list ready, that is why I am requesting you to please provide all information like from where the train will run, the list of passengers according to the trains, their medical certificate and where the train is to go, to the General Manager of Central Railway within the next hour, so that we can plan the time of trains."
Responding to it, Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Monday tweeted, "Maharashtra government has given you a list of workers who wish to return home. The only request is that the train should reach the station, as announced earlier."
"The Gorakhpur-bound train had reached Odisha," the Sena's Rajya Sabha member further said.
Raut also asked Goyal if the Ministry of Railways had made any such list while running the Nagpur-Udhampur migrant train on May 14.