'Never called Shramik Special trains as Corona Express, people gave that name': Mamata Banerjee counters Amit Shah - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Wednesday, 10 June 2020

'Never called Shramik Special trains as Corona Express, people gave that name': Mamata Banerjee counters Amit Shah

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday denied having called 'Shramik Special' trains, ferrying migrant labourers back home,"Corona Express" as alleged by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, insisting it was the people who gave that name to crammed-to-capacity trains.

File images of Mamata Banerjee and Amit Shah. News18

Her comments came a day after Shah, addressing a virtual rally for West Bengal, accused Banerjee of "insulting" migrant workers returning to the state on Shramik Special trains by calling the trains 'Corona Express', and asserted that migrant workers will ensure the "exit" of her government in the 2021 Assembly polls.

"More than 11 lakh migrants have returned to Bengal. I never called the migrant special trains 'Corona Express'. It was the common people who gave them that name," she told reporters.

Claiming that the reason for initially stopping the trains carrying migrant workers back to the state was "misunderstood and misinterpreted", Banerjee said people started calling the Shramik Special trains Corona Express as those with the capacity to accomodate 2,000 people were ferrying 3,000 to 4,000 labourers in cramped bogies.

She said that the state government, which had earlier decided to request for 225 trains, has now asked for 30 more in view of a large number of migrant workers wanting to return home.

"I request all of you not to sensationalise everything. Train services had been kept suspended because of one reason - so that people are not packed closely into a small space as the corona infection may spread," she said.

Criticising the Centre for going ahead with an "unplanned lockdown", Banerjee said the "migrant crisis" could have been averted had the Union government plied Sharmik Special trains to send back migrants labourers beforehand.

"If you (the Centre) had run the Shramik Express trains for seven days and sent the migrant workers home before announcing the lockdown, then these people would not have suffered for three months", Banerjee said.

The issue of bringing migrant workers back to Bengal has snowballed into a major political row in the last few weeks with the BJP and the Centre alleging that the state government is not keen to take them back.  The TMC dispensation has rebuffed the claim.

Banerjee had earlier hit out at the railways for sending trains packed with migrant workers "completely disregarding" social distancing norms. She wondered whether the railways was running "Corona Express" trains to her state.

Banerjee had blamed the influx of migrant labourers for the surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the state. "We were successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the last two months, but now it is increasing as many people are coming from outside. The railways is sending migrants in jam-packed compartments.

"We are paying for 235 trains but then why are two to three people being made to sit on one seat? The railways, in the name of Shramik Special trains, are running 'Corona Express' trains. The people are calling these trains 'Corona Express," the TMC chief, a strident critic of the Modi government, had said.

June 10, 2020 at 09:40PM

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