The Indian Railways on Saturday (May 9) night said it had received “clearance” from West Bengal for running eight special trains to the state to ferry people stranded outside due to the ongoing lockdown, after day-long war of words between the state and the Centre over the matter.
A senior railway official said three trains from Karnataka, two each from Punjab and Tamil Nadu, and one from Telangana will take stranded people to West Bengal over the next few days. The official, however, said that no ‘Shramik Special’ train departed for West Bengal on Saturday as claimed by the state.
“Indian Railways has so far run more than 300 trains mainly for states like UP, Bihar, Odisha, MP, etc. But for WB till today morning we had received approval for only 2 Shramik Special trains, 1 from Ajmer Sharif & other from Ernakulam.
“After request of Home Minister today afternoon West Bengal has approved two trains from Punjab, two from Tamil Nadu, three from Karnataka and one from Telangana, which are being arranged,” the ministry tweeted at 8:47 pm.
It also said that West Bengal has not approved any train from Maharashtra, while there is a requirement of trains to the state from there for which approval is still pending.
Union Home minister Amit Shah on Saturday in a letter accused the Mamata Banerjee government of not allowing trains to ferry stranded migrants to their homes, but the state refuted the charge saying around 6,000 people have already returned and 10 more trains carrying stranded labourers will arrive soon.
It was after a letter from Shah accusing the state government of not allowing its migrants home that the TMC in a press conference said that it has made plans for eight trains, four of which will depart Saturday. However, within minutes, Railway officials said that they had received no clearance from the state to run trains there.
Till now, out of the 302 Shramik Special trains run so far, only two have been to Bengal.
Among the states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal which are considered the largest source of migrant population in the country, the TMC-led state has the least number of migrant special trains coming in.
Bihar has accepted 73 trains, 17 trains are still on their way there and 15 more trains have got the nod to be operated to the state. Uttar Pradesh has brought its migrants in 88 Shramik Special trains, 33 more are on their way and 21 more will begin their journeys in the coming days.
Jharkhand has accepted 13 trains, has three more on the run and two in the pipeline, while Odisha has brought in migrants in 20 trains, while one us on the run and three more are being planned.
According to figures from 2011 census, West Bengal ranks fourth among states from where people migrate for work and employment. Between 2001 and 2011, nearly 5.8 lakh people migrated from the state looking for work, which is fewer only than Uttar Pradesh (37.3 lakh), Bihar (22.6 lakh) and Rajasthan (6.6 lakh).
The TMC also released a schedule of eight trains which it had planned, including four to be run on Saturday — three trains to the state from Bengaluru and one from Hyderabad. The Railways, however, has denied that any such trains are in the pipeline.