While the opposition parties, particularly the Congress party, has been the most vocal on the migrant issue during the Lockdown, data shows that states run by Congress and other opposition parties are lagging behind other states in running Shramik Special Trains to bring migrants home.
In the last couple of days, it was already revealed how the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress run Maharashtra govt failed to arrange migrants to send back from the state, after requesting trains which were arranged by the Indian Railways. On 25th, the Central Railway had arranged 125 trains from Maharashtra to different states, but the Maharashtra govt submitted details of passengers for only 46 trains. Even in this 46, 5 were for West Bengal and Odisha, two states which have requested not to send trains due to Cyclone Amphan. Accordingly, Railways had arranged 41 trains, but only 39 could be run as the administration failed to bring the passengers to the stations.
Similarly, on 26th May, the Central Railway had arranged 145 trains to be run from Maharashtra as per requirement submitted by nodal officers, but only 75 trains could be run by 12 AM midnight due to lack of passengers. While 25 trains were scheduled to run before 12 PM, none of them could run as there was no passenger. By 3 PM, 13 trains had left Maharashtra against planned 50 trains scheduled till that time. Maharashtra failed to arrange passengers for trains arranged by the Railways after alleging that they were not getting adequate trains. They had said that they are only getting half the trains requested per day, but the facts given by the Railways show the complete opposite picture. While Railways is arranging trains as requested by the state govt, the Maharashtra govt has been unable to arrange migrants to send home.
It is not that only Maharashtra is lacking in cooperation in movement of migrants. Several other states have also failed to give approval to receive trains sent from other states. It may be noted that the Shramik Special Trains run to move migrants are run on the basis of mutual cooperation of origin and destination states. Both the states have to agree to run the trains, only after that the Railways arranges and operates the trains.
Railways has run 3,543 Shramik Special Trains till now, and has transported more than 44 lakhs stranded migrants to their home States. Just a couple of days back, Indian Railways took a major decision to operationalise 2,600 more Shramik Special Trains in next ten days across the country. This initiative is expected to benefit another 36 lakh stranded passengers across the country. The preparations for this exercise have been done on a war-footing, and Indian Railways is planning to operationalise trains from 700 districts.
But several states are not cooperating with Railways and other states in this operation. According to Railway ministry sources, West Bengal, a state which sends a large number of workers to other states, has given approval for only 60 trains. This can cater to a very small fraction of people wanting to go back to the state. Further, they have now stopped receiving trains in the name of cyclone Amphan. Similarly, Chhattisgarh has given approval for only 53 trains, Rajasthan for 46 trains, and Jharkhand for 177 trains. Just to put this in perspective, Uttar Pradesh has given approval to 1,548 trains and Bihar has given approval to 1,307 trains till date, this just shows how there is a huge difference in states in approving the trains. A source in Railways says that “only if the states like West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand stop being callous and show some compassion, better help can be extended to the stranded migrants”.
A Railway Ministry official said, “leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee are responsible for the poor state of affairs of stranded migrants. All they had to do was to cooperate with Indian Railways in bringing the migrants back home. It is sad to see that they chose politics over human life.”
Earlier also union railway minister Piyush Goyal had informed that several states such as West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, were not giving enough permissions for Shramik Special Trains’ to enter their states. And the same trend continues even now, while the opposition parties continue to attack the Modi government over the migrant issue. If the states don’t give the required approval, the plan to tun 2600 additional trains will also not succeed.