Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has finally ended her silence on the "Corona Express" remark which BJP's Amit Shah attributed to her during his virtual rally two days ago. The coinage, which targeted the special trains for migrant labourers, would bring about her political downfall, he had said.
Today, the Chief Minister issued a rejoinder.
"I never said Corona Express. I said the public is saying it. You can see my original statement. I said the public said," said Ms Banerjee, who has been at loggerheads with the Centre over the migrant trains.
For three months, there have been controversies over the trains to Bengal, with the Centre alleging that it was not getting enough support from Ms Banerjee's government for running the migrant trains. The state BJP said the government withheld permission which was mandatory at the time. Soon after, the Centre scrapped the rule that made the permission of the receiving state mandatory.
Ms Banerjee and other opposition parties contended that the Centre originally showed no interest in helping lakhs of stranded workers get home and started the migrant trais only after pressure from states.
An unending stream of migrants trudging along highways across the country, clutching their children and meagre possessions, has been one of the lasting images of the lockdown.
Today, during the address live streamed on Facebook today, Ms Banerjee said her reason for initially stopping the migrant trains was "misunderstood".
"The train services have been kept closed because of one reason -- so that people are not packed closely into a small space as the corona infection may spread," she said, echoing the opposition allegation that the railways had not paid any heed to the social distancing norms while transferring the migrants, thus increasing the risk of the spread of the infection.
Following the influx of migrants, most stats have registered a spike in coronavirus figures.
Blaming the Centre for the plight of the migrants, Ms Banerjee said, "If you had for run the Shramik Express trains for seven days and sent them home before announcing lockdown, then these shramiks (labourers) would not have suffered for three months".
The Centre she said, should learn from the state in this matter. "The migrants here did not want to go anywhere," the Chief Minister added.