Migrant Trains Flashpoint Of Political Battle Between Centre And 3 States

The furore over the lack of a heads-up for incoming trains started after the Centre's decision to scrap the requirement of a sign-off from the receiving state.

Migrant Trains Flashpoint Of Political Battle Between Centre And 3 States

Bengal, Kerala accused Centre of spreading coronavirus by sending trains without notification

New Delhi:

A full-scale political battle is in progress over the special trains for migrants, with two opposition-ruled states -- Bengal and Kerala -- accusing the Centre of spreading coronavirus by sending trains without any notification. A third, Maharashtra, from where a chunk of outgoing traffic originates, has been engaged in a face-off with the Centre over the availability of trains over the last week. All of it has been running alongside a bigger political finger-pointing over the coronavirus numbers in the opposition-ruled states.

The furore over the lack of a heads-up for incoming trains started after the Centre's decision to scrap the requirement of a sign-off from the receiving state. Initially it was mandatory for both sending and receiving states to give a formal approval before a train started rolling.

But that rule was edited on May 19 after allegations that states like Bengal were unwilling to receive migrants from other states.  

The spin-off turned out to be that trains, loaded with migrants, started reaching states without any intimation, creating logistical problems for the receiving state.

On Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the issue. Mr Vijayan said the Railways' action could "subvert" or "undermine" the state's effort to contain the infection. His finance minister Thomas Isaac alleged that the railways  "want to be the super spreader" of the disease in Kerala.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has made similar allegations, saying the railways was "evacuating Maharashtra and spreading corona to Bengal".

In her message asking for the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bengal Chief Minister also cited another state --- BJP-ruled Bihar, which was not eager initially for the return of its migrants in view of the containment problems it might pose.

"I appeal to the PM, corona should not increase. It has spread a lot. It is not time to play politics. Is it not spreading to Bihar also, in BJP-ruled states?" she said.

Maharashtra, meanwhile, has been witnessing a tussle between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. While the state has accused the Centre of not making trains available, the Centre alleges it has the trains, but the state has not done its homework to provide passengers.

As crowds continue to build up out Mumbai's railway stations, Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik accused the Centre of "deliberately playing politics". Piyush Goyal, he said, allotted 49 trains to carry migrants from the Lokmanya Tilak Station. But the Divisional Railway Manager said they can't allow more than 16 trains, he added.

In a series of tweets around 2 am on Monday, Piyush Goyal had countered Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's claim that Maharashtra got only half the trains it asked for. His ministry, Mr Gooyal said, would work overnight if it received within an hour a list of trains, passengers and destinations from Mr Thackeray.

The BJP has already accused the Maharashtra government of failing to contain the soaring figures of infection in the state. In rallies and meetings with the Governor, the BJP's former  Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has repeatedly pointed to the failure of the Uddhav Thackeray government.