Amit Shah accuses Mamata of not allowing migrants to return to Bengal

Published : May 09, 2020 23:20 IST

Migrants from Bengal gather at Koritepadu Park centre in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, on may 5 demanding that they be sent back home. Photo: T. Vijaya Kumar

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in which he accuses the West Bengal government of not cooperating with the Centre in bringing back to the State stranded migrant workers, has triggered a fresh war of words between the Centre and the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal.

He alleged that the West Bengal government, by not allowing the ‘Shramik Special’ trains to enter the State, was doing “injustice” to stranded migrant workers of the State in different parts of the country. Amit Shah wrote, “Migrants from West Bengal are also eager to reach home. Central govt is facilitating but we are not getting expected support from W.B. State Government, which is not allowing the trains to reach W.B. This is injustice with W.B. migrant labourers. This will create further hardship for them.”

The Trinamool Congress struck back, calling Amit Shah’s allegations “lies”. Mamata’s nephew and Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee posted on social media: “A HM failing to discharge his duties during this crisis speaks after weeks of silence, only to mislead people with bundle of lies! Ironically he’s talking about the very ppl who’ve been literally left to fate by his own Govt. Mr @AmitShah, prove your fake allegations or apologise.”

Trinamool’s chief national spokesperson and leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha Derek O’ Brien also demanded that Shah either retract his letter or apologise. “So the Home Minister of India has finally surfaced from his deep sleep. Where was he hiding? …We were just wondering in these 40 odd days did you give any migrant worker a handful of rice. You have cut their salaries. Why have you cut their salaries? ...Why have you abandoned the migrant worker? …Why do away with labour laws in Uttar Pradesh? You first answer these questions, and then you can, with no one’s permission, go back to your deep sleep…. You have an old habit its part of your DNA to play divisive politics,” said Derek O’Brien.

The State government has been in talks with governments of several states, including Karnataka, Rajasthan, Kerala and Telangana to work out the details of bringing back migrant workers stranded in those States. In a letter to his counterpart in Telangana, the West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha wrote on May 7, “The departure (of the train carrying stranded residents of Bengal) may be so planned that it reaches State on 10th May, 2020 or thereafter but in any case during day time.” Sinha requested that before starting the train the government of Telangana provide the details of the stranded persons and their destinations in Bengal at, “so that necessary arrangements for intra-State transportation as well as train stoppages within the State can be planned.” The Trinamool leadership also announced that it had requisitioned eight trains to bring back migrants from across the country. On March 6, two trains from Rajasthan and Kerala, carrying 1,186 and 1,123 migrants respectively, reached West Bengal.

According to State Home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, the government has also arranged for more than 1,000 buses to transport migrant labourers who have reached the State borders on foot. “Stranded migrant labourers, in-bound from other States to our’s are being given transportation, food, help from the inter-State borders to their home district, and out-bound migrant labourers, desperate to get back to their home State are also being taken to designated points by us,” said Bandopadhyay.