Even as of several deaths have been reported onboard Shramik Special trains reportedly due to lack of food and water during the journeys, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said on Thursday that theses deaths of the migrants are “small and isolated” incidents, and the railways cannot be blamed for it, provoking accusations of “insensitivity” from political rivals.
Nine passengers, including a child, have been reported dead on ”Shramik Special” trains since Monday as extreme heat, hunger and dehydration take a toll on lakhs of migrant workers and their families rushing back home amid the lockdown.
“Some unfortunate incidents have taken place. But you can’t just blame the railways for it. They have been doing their best to ferry the migrants. Some deaths have taken place, but these are isolated incidents.” Ghosh said.
“We have examples of how railways have done their best to serve the passengers. Some small incidents have taken place, but that doesn’t mean you will close down the railways,” BJP MP told reporters.
The ruling Trinamool (TMC) and the opposition CPI(M) in West Bengal hit back at Ghosh and asked the BJP leader to be more sensitive to the plight of the labourers.
“This entire migrant issue is a result of the Centre’s mishandling of the COVID crisis and the lockdown. So many people are dying, and BJP leaders are behaving arrogantly as if nothing has happened. Before pointing fingers at us, Mr Dilip Ghosh should behave and speak sensibly,” senior TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy said.
CPM politburo member Mohammed Salim also echoed Roy’s view and said leaders like Ghosh want to remain in a “make-belief world of BJP which says everything is happening for good in BJP regime”.
“The migrant labour issue has proved that the Modi government is unable to save human lives. BJP leaders should be ashamed of the mishandling of the crisis by the union government,” Salim said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had on Thursday issued interim orders regarding the migrant crisis across the country, two days after it took suo motu cognizance of problems faced by the labourers who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus outbreak.
“All migrants who are stranded shall be provided food by the concerned state at places publicized and notified to them so that they can meet both ends. While they wait for turn to board train or bus, they can survive this way,” the bench said.
Dictating the orders, the apex court said that no train or bus fare should be charged from migrants travelling back to their homes.
Amid the nationwide lockdown, thousands of daily wagers and other migrants have undertaken epic journeys to reach home — walking, cycling and hitching rides when they could — in the absence of any public transport.
The unprecedented move to stem the spread of COVID-19 triggered possibly the biggest movement of people since Partition.
Several migrant workers have lost their lives in road accidents while travelling back to their homes.