War of words ensues between state and Piyus Goyal over Railway service to migrants

CM Thackeray-Piyush Goyal

Mumbai: A centre-state feud has ensued over trains for migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown and desperate to go home. While Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said that his ministry would work overnight if it received within one hour a list of trains, passengers and destinations from the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, the state government alleging that it had got only half the trains the state had asked for.

A war of words has already broken out between Goyal and the senior Sena leader Sanjay Raut over an alleged 50% less number of Shramik Special trains being provided daily to ferry stranded migrant workers out of Maharashtra, which has reported the maximum number of Covid-19 positive cases in the country.

Thackeray had said the rail authorities have managed to provide only 50% of the trains required to ferry stranded migrant workers back to their home states, Goyal tweeted that they could arrange 125 trains on conditions that they don’t run “empty” and also sought a list of passengers.

Goyal tweeted, “Where is the list for 125 trains from Maharashtra? As of 2 am, received a 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!!!”

However, Raut hit back, “We have sent the list. The only request for Piyush Goyal is that the train should reach its destination. A train to Gorakhpur should not reach Odisha.” The Sena leader was referring to a migrant train from Maharashtra reaching Odisha instead of UP last week due to a mix-up.

The fight started when in his video address to Maharashtra on Sunday, Thackeray said he had demanded 80 migrant special trains a day but was getting only 40. The Chief Minister also said the state had paid Rs 85-crore for the trains till now.

Responding to the allegations of Thackeray, the railway minister Goyal retorted in a dozen tweets over the next few hours. He said the Railways Ministry was ready to send as many trains as required to states, provided they do not “return empty”. “I hope that these trains will not have to leave empty after arriving at the station as it has happened earlier. I would like to assure you that the trains you need will be available,” tweeted the Minister, referring to instances of migrants in Maharashtra not taking the trains and setting out for their home states on foot or in trucks.

“We are ready to provide 125 Shramik Special trains to Maharashtra. Since you have said that you have a list ready that is why I am requesting you to please provide all information like from where the train will run, the list of passengers according to the trains, their medical certificate and where the train is to go, to the General Manager of Central Railway within the next hour, so that we can plan the time of trains,” Goyal further said.