The exclusion of West Bengal from the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, an employment scheme recently launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has left the leaders of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) furious.
The job scheme was launched on June 20 for migrant workers who had returned home in wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. It will be implemented on a mission mode over 125 days in 116 districts of six states — Odisha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand — which have received the maximum number of migrant workers.
Stating that the Centre was apathetic to the plight of the poor, the TMC leaders in West Bengal on Monday (June 20) sought an explanation from the prime minister. However, the BJP leaders reasoned this exclusion, saying the TMC government, in the past, had opted out of two major central schemes — PM Kissan Samman Nidhi and Ayushman Bharat.
Shri @narendramodi Ji, why have you blatantly ignored the concerns of 11 Lakh migrant workers from #Bengal who’ve recently returned to their homes. Why has WB been left out of the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan? Why this apathy towards the people of Bengal? https://t.co/wW86ntqCoV
— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) June 22, 2020
Lok Sabha MP and nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee, alleged that the Modi government has ignored Bengal, which is home to 11 lakh migrant workers.
“Shri @narendramodi Ji, why have you blatantly ignored the concerns of 11 Lakh migrant workers from #Bengal who’ve recently returned to their homes. Why has WB been left out of the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan? Why this apathy towards the people of Bengal?” he tweeted.
Echoing Abhishek Banerjee, TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said the decision to keep West Bengal out of the scheme shows that the “BJP is not bothered about the state’s development.”
“The BJP is only interested in winning votes. They are not bothered about the development of people in general, which is why they kept Bengal out of this scheme. For the last few weeks, they were shedding crocodile tears for the migrants here, now they stand exposed,” Chatterjee said.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had recently written to the PM, requesting him to include West Bengal under the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, as the state sends a large chunk of labourers to others parts of the country for work.
“I was shocked to find that Bengal has not been made a beneficiary in this scheme. This does not seem right. The migrant workers from Bengal should not be deprived,” said the Congress leader.
However, the state BJP leadership pinned the blame on the TMC dispensation and its earlier decisions for the Centre’s move. BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said there’s no point in allotting a scheme to a state which is unwilling to implement it for vested political interests.
“There have been instances where the state government has not allowed implementation of various central welfare schemes, such as the PM Kissan Samman Nidhi for farmers, and the Ayushman Bharat health scheme for the poor. No point in allotting a scheme to a state that is unwilling to implement it for vested political interests,” said Sinha.
Once the BJP comes to power in West Bengal, all central schemes would be implemented in the state, he added.
The issue of bringing home migrant workers has snowballed into a major political row in West Bengal over the past few weeks, with the BJP and the central government alleging that the state was not keen to take them back, a claim rebuffed by the TMC dispensation.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had last month slammed the Railways for “sending trains jam-packed with migrant workers with total disregard for social distancing norms.”
(With inputs from agencies)