Bengal arranges special trains to bring back 30,000 stranded people
Kolkata: The Bengal government is arranging 10 special trains to bring back over 30,000 residents stranded in six states, including Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab due to the ongoing lockdown.
The stranded people are mostly migrant workers, patients and their attendants, students, pilgrims and tourists from Bengal.
One train from Telangana with migrant labourers from Bengal will leave on Sunday. Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha exchanged a number of letters with his counterparts in other states so that the operation could be carried out smoothly. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah didn't take this exercise in consideration and accused the state government alleging a lackadaisical attitude on its part. Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee along with other party leaders criticised Shah for writing "blatant lies" and urged him to either prove his allegations or apologise.
This comes when the number of tests in Bengal has increased by almost 15 times in just one-and-a-half-months with 3,502 tests undertaken on Saturday in 18 laboratories. 108 people tested positive in the past 24 hours and 11 died due to the disease in one day, taking the total death toll to 99.
Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said on Saturday at Nabanna: "Followed by bilateral discussions with respective states, the Bengal government has given necessary permission to run 10 special trains to bring back its stranded labourers from states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Telangana, Punjab, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where mainly patients and their family members are stuck. Trains will also be leaving from Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bengaluru. Schedule has been prepared to execute the same." In reply to the Ministry of Railway's claim, Bandyopadhyay tweeted: "Ministry of Railways tweet is misleading and incorrect. All the trains mentioned in their tweet were approved and communicated to the concerned States on 8 May (yesterday), and no new decision in this regard has been taken today. Further decisions to follow in due course."
Ministry of Railways tweeted on Saturday night that it had received "approval for only 2 Shramik special trains, 1 from Ajmer Sharif & other from Ernakulam. After request of Hon'ble HM, today afternoon WB has approved 2 trains from Punjab, 2 from TN, 3 from Karnataka & 1 from Telangana, which are being arranged."
In a bid to bring back stranded pilgrims, steps have been taken up to run special trains from Vrindaban, Varanasi and Mathura. Its schedule will get finalised soon.
The train that will leave Hyderabad on Sunday is scheduled straight for Malda English Bazaar station in north Bengal as most of the people, who will return, are from there. If everything goes as planned, two trains each will be leaving from Punjab and Tamil Nadu. The trains from Punjab will be reaching Durgapur and Bandel stations with 1,299 and 1,314 passengers respectively while the trains from Vellore will be reaching Howrah and Kharagpur with 1,200 and 1,218 people respectively.
Three trains are scheduled to leave from Bengaluru. The trains will stop at Bankura, New Jalpaiguri and Purulia Town stations. As many as 7,683 people will be returning from there.
The state government has sought details of the returnees from each state as all necessary preparations have been made from their health screening to transport facilities ferrying them to their respective districts.
There are many stranded migrant labourers in the neighbouring states including Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Odisha and Assam who are reaching Bengal's bordering areas on foot after walking several miles. In a bid to help such people, the state government's transport corporations have engaged more than 1,000 buses in which they will be taken to their respective districts.
As many as 6,175 people have already returned to Bengal in their own cars or by hiring the same or in buses after getting entry passes by applying through the app introduced by the Bengal government. Similarly, 20,013 people, who were stuck in Bengal, have gone back to their respective states after getting necessary passes through the app. The Chief Secretary also wrote to the Centre stating about the state's preparedness as per the Standard Operating Procedures that include an arrangement for institutional quarantine for the people of Bengal who are returning from abroad.