Despite centre's pleas, WB, J'khand, Raj, Chhattisgarh still laggard in bringing migrants home: data

Ananya Sengupta

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) Despite several pleas from the centre to state governments to give approvals for trains to bring stranded migrants home, many states including West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have been laggard in allowing such trains to arrive from other parts of the country, official data has shown.

The railways has so far run 1,414 Shramik Special trains since May 1, of which 641 have terminated in Uttar Pradesh followed by 310 in Bihar.

On the other hand, even as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she has approved 105 trains, only 19 trains have run so far from different parts of the country to the state. While nine have completed their journeys, seven were in transit and only three more have been approved by the state government.

Similarly, while 25 trains have terminated in Rajasthan, six were on their way and only two more have been approved. Fourteen trains have ended their journeys in Chhattisgarh, two were running and three more are in the pipeline, data shows.

Jharkhand, which was among the few states that gave quick approvals for transporting their migrants back to the states initially, has fallen behind in approving trains now -- while 56 trains have terminated in the state, eight each were in transit and in the pipeline. Odisha where so far 58 trains have terminated has no pending approvals probably due to the approaching cyclone, officials said.

The problem, officials say, is that the railways, while having the capacity to run around 300 trains per day, is operating half of that number because states are not sending an adequate number of approvals.

'Unfortunately, many states are not giving approvals for trains carrying their own migrants, resulting in migrants being forced to walk on roads or travel through unsafe vehicles like trucks, etc. and violating social distancing. Migrant heavy states have approved very less trains. Chhattisgarh (has approved) only 19 trains, Rajasthan only 33 trains and Jharkhand only 72 trains,' the officials said.

Railway minister Piyush Goyal over the last two days has appealed to state governments to approve as many such trains as possible to ensure that migrants are not forced to walk home or take risky avenues to reach their destinations.

On Sunday, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba requested state officials through video conferencing to cooperate in running of more Shramik Special trains and facilitate the movement of migrant workers.

Since the trains for migrant workers began to ply, the issue has been embroiled in political mudslinging with the opposition accusing the railways of charging poor migrant workers for the travel.

Weeks into the operation of the special trains, Home Minister Amit Shah in a letter singled out West Bengal and accused it of not allowing migrant trains to operate to the state.

What followed was a political slugfest between the centre and states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh with the respective chief ministers taking to micro blogging site Twitter to deny holding back permission for any migrant special trains. PTI ASG RDM RDM