On Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah hit out at West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, claiming she did not allow enough trains to ferry migrants wanting to return to the state from various parts of the country.

Amit Shah, in an exclusive interview with Network 18’s Editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi said, “We don’t have any differences with Mamata ji. There is no clash between Bengal and the Centre. Don’t you think it is the right of the ‘mazdoor’ to stay with their family members during the pandemic? But Mamataji is not allowing more trains to Bengal.”

Responding to Banerjee’s allegation that Centre hatched a political conspiracy against the West Bengal government, Shah said, “There is no fight. I would like to clarify that Uttar Pradesh allowed more than 1,200 trains for migrant workers, Bihar allowed nearly 1,000 trains but Bengal didn’t even allow 100 trains for migrant workers.”

He said, “If they (migrant workers) want to return home and you’re terming them ‘Corona Express’ – do you think it is right to make such comments? Is it not the right of Bengali migrant workers, who are stuck in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra, to go back to their hometown?” he said.

File image of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. PTI

Shah added that other states had behaved responsibly, accepted migrant workers in large numbers and allowed more trains, but Bengal had not done the same.

“Till today, she has not accepted adequate number of trains. I believe that the people of Bengal will remember this and they will give a befitting reply to her for terming them (migrant workers) ‘Corona Express,’” Shah said.

On the issue of the migrant crisis, Shah said that had migrant labourers been sent to the respective states before the lockdown, it would have posed a huge problem to the state governments as they did not have sufficient testing and quarantine facilities at that time.

“We wanted to first strengthen the healthcare system in states before sending the migrant workers.”

He said, “We have started the special trains on 1 May, but before that on 20 April, the government started sending labourers from nearby areas to their states. Nearly 41 lakh labourers were sent through bus services. About 4,000 trains were pressed into service for migrants. However, some of the labourers lost patience and started walking towards their states, so we took many people to the nearest railway station or their native district.”

“The Modi government has arranged buses and trains for the migrants and till now, 55 lakh migrants have been sent to their native states. The Railways has helped migrants in returning home, most of them have completed their quarantine period and have started living with their families,” Shah added.

Responding to Amit Shah’s comments, TMC MP Derek O’Brien said that the BJP’s priority today was the 2021 Bengal elections and not the Covid-19 crisis.

“Amit Shah Ji thanks for confirming what your party’s topmost priority today is the 2021 Bengal elections. Overcoming Covid challenge? No. Standing by those affected by Amphan? No. Keep doing your politics. Let Mamata Banerjee do what she does best — stand by people,” O’Brien wrote on Twitter.

He added that migrant workers were given just a four-hours notice before a 21-day lockdown and alleged that 80 lives had been lost because of the BJP’s neglect.

“You gave #MigrantWorkers just 4 hours notice before a 21day lockdown – abandoned them. Robbed them of their dignity. Packed them on trains like cattle 50 days later without any food. 80 precious lives have been lost because of your neglect. If it still didn’t stir your conscience.. nothing will,” the tweet said.


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