Covid-19 crisis: Thackeray, Piyush Goyal fight it out over migrant trains

According to the Railway Board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav, around 80 per cent of the Shramik special trains had Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as their destinations
The demand for more Shramik special trains by Maharashtra to transport stranded migrants led to a political tug of war on Sunday, with Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal retorting with a dozen tweets stating that his ministry was ready to send as many trains as required, if the state can ensure that it will not return empty.

The war of words started with a statement by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday that though his state had demanded around 80 Shramik trains a day, the Centre is providing only 30-40 a day.

Maharashtra has already made a list of migrants who want to go to their native states, he added.

Soon after this statement, Goyal took a dig at Thackeray through a series of tweets till 2 am on Monday night. Thackeray is the second state chief minister after West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, with whom Goyal is in a duel over Shramik trains.

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Goyal in his tweets demanded list of passengers from the Maharashtra government on the basis of the guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs, stating the source state will have to provide a list of passengers to the national transporter and also to the destination state.

"Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra? As of 2 am, received list of only 46 trains of which five are to West Bengal and Odisha, which cannot operate due to cyclone Amphan. We are notifying only 41 trains for today despite being prepared for 125," the minister Tweeted. The Indian Railways had started Shramik trains from May 1 to May 23, around 2,600 trains were operated transporting over 3.5 million passengers," he said.

"The Railways had said that in last few days only, over 65 trains had to be cancelled in Maharshtra due to lack of clarity from the state over the passenger list. “I hope that these trains will not have to leave empty after arriving at the station like it has happened earlier,” another tweet said. 

According to the Railway Board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav, around 80 per cent of the Shramik special trains had Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as their destinations.

“On Maharashtra government’s request, Railways has conducted 557 Shramik special trains carrying over 7,70,000 people so far. Railways' nodal officer and nodal officer of Maharashtra are in constant touch for planning the trains,” said a Railways official on Monday.

Even after the spat, the state demanded for 46 trains from Maharashtra on Monday, out of which five trains were destined to Amphan-affected West Bengal and Odisha.

Early this month, Goyal and Banerjee had a war of words on Twitter after the former tweeted that West Bengal was not providing facilities to the migrants to return home and has allowed only seven 'Shramik Special' trains. Following this, the CM had announced 105 pairs of trains for migrants to return back home. According to the Railways, those trains were extending over a period and not a day.

“At present, trains to West Bengal is not operating due to cyclone. We expect the state to help us restart the services soon,” a railways official added. 

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