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Kolkata, May 9, 2020
The Centre-state debate over the issue of bringing back thousands of migrant workers to West Bengal reached a new flashpoint on Saturday with Union Home Minister Amit Shah writing a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee complaining that the Centre was not getting the "expected support" from her government in bringing back stranded migrant workers home.
According to sources, Shah said in the letter that West Bengal government was not allowing trains with migrant workers. "This is injustice to migrant workers. This will create further hardships for them," the letter said.
Shah claimed that migrants from West Bengal are eager to reach home, but the state government has not been allowing the trains to enter the state.
He claimed that the Central government has been trying to aid more than two lakh migrants to return back to their home states, but it is only West Bengal that has not supported the initiative.
"Migrants from West Bengal are also eager to reach home. Central government is facilitating but we are not getting expected support from West Bengal," Shah wrote.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state secretary Dilip Ghosh said that it is the responsibility of the West Bengal government to take the necessary initiatives to bring back all migrant workers from other states.
"It is not possible for the Centre to know how many migrant workers from Bengal are settled in other states. The Mamata Banerjee administration has not appealed for any special train to the Centre while other states like Uttar Pradesh has already written communications to the Centre for giving them special trains," Ghosh said, adding that the Trinaool Congress-led state government is only busy fighting with the Centre.
Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sujan Chakrbaorty said that migrant workers from Bengal are the worst sufferers. "When both the governments - Centre and state - are at loggerheads in the time of Covid-19 pandemic these poor migrants labourers are at the receiving end now," said Chakraborty.
In the wake of demands by different state governments to run special trains to ferry people stuck in various states, Indian Railways on May 1 had said that it will run special trains from Friday itself to move labourers, pilgrims, tourists and students stranded across the country.
Railways Executive Director (Media) R.D. Bajpai had then said in a statement that as per the guidelines issued by Ministry of Home Affairs, it was decided to run "Shramik Special" trains to return migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students, and others to their native states.