On Monday, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee was heavily criticised by Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah for not permitting sufficient trains to sent migrant workers stuck in different parts of the state to their respective hometowns.
Network 18 quoted Amit Shah as saying, "We don't have any differences with Mamata ji. There is no clash between Bengal and the Centre. Don't you think it is the right of the 'mazdoor' to stay with their family members during the pandemic? But Mamataji is not allowing more trains to Bengal."
Reacting to Mamata Banerjee's accusation against the Central government for planning a political plot against the Bengal Government, Amit Shah said, "There is no fight. I would like to clarify that Uttar Pradesh allowed more than 1,200 trains for migrant workers, Bihar allowed nearly 1,000 trains, but Bengal didn't even allow 100 trains for migrant workers."
"If they (migrant workers) want to return home and you're terming them 'Corona Express' – do you think it is right to make such comments? Is it not the right of Bengali migrant workers, who are stuck in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra, to go back to their hometown?" he added.
Amit Shah also said that unlike West Bengal, the other States have delivered a responsible behaviour and welcomed a large number of migrants and more trains were permitted to function.
Shah said, "Till today, she has not accepted the adequate number of trains. I believe that the people of Bengal will remember this and they will give a befitting reply to her for terming them (migrant workers) 'Corona Express."
When asked on the dilemma and difficulty relating the crisis of migrant workers, Amit Shah spoke about the problems that the State government would have faced if the labourers were sent to their hometowns before the lockdown since at that point of time there was no proper testing facilities and kits or facilities of quarantine available.
Shah said that they planned to build up the healthcare structure first in different areas before ferrying the migrants.
"We have started the special trains on May 1, but before that on April 20, the government started sending labourers from nearby areas to their States. Nearly 41 lakh labourers were sent through bus services. About 4,000 trains were pressed into service for migrants. However, some of the labourers lost patience and started walking towards their states, so we took many people to the nearest railway station or their native district," he said.
"The Modi government has arranged buses and trains for the migrants, and till now, 55 lakh migrants have been sent to their native states. The Railways has helped migrants in returning home, most of them have completed their quarantine period and have started living with their families," he further added.
TMC politician Derek O'Brien in response to Shah's statement said, "BJP's priority today was the 2021 Bengal elections and not the COVID-19 crisis."
On his Twitter account, he wrote, "Amit Shah Ji thanks for confirming what your party's topmost priority today is the 2021 Bengal elections. Overcoming Covid challenge? No. Standing by those affected by Amphan? No. Keep doing your politics. Let Mamata Banerjee do what she does best — stand by people."
He further reacted to the matter saying about the migrants who were informed just four hours before the lockdown for 21 days was declared and also claimed that due to the negligence shown by the BJP 80 people had lost their lives.
"You gave #MigrantWorkers just 4 hours notice before a 21day lockdown - abandoned them. Robbed them of their dignity. Packed them on trains like cattle 50 days later without any food. 80 precious lives have been lost because of your neglect. If it still didn't stir your conscience.. nothing will." he tweeted.