New Delhi/Mumbai/Thiruvananthapuram : The tiff over Shramik Specials intensified further as Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal late Tuesday night over number of trains being available.
In a statement, Malik, who is an NCP Minister of Minority Development in the Uddhav Thackeray-led three-party coalition government in Maharashtra, alleged that for the last two days, the Railway Minister is doing politics.
"He said 49 trains would leave from Mumbai''s Lok Manya Tilak terminus. However, the Divisional Railway Manager said only 16 trains will be allowed."
Hitting out at the Central government, the NCP leader said, "Passengers of 49 trains arrived at the station, but the railways was not ready to run the trains."
"We feel the Railway Minister and Central government are intentionally doing politics," Malik said.
Later the Divisional Railway Manager of the Lok Manya Tilak Terminus in a tweet said, "Never given such a statement to anyone. We as Indian Railways are committed to run the trains and help the migrants in distress."
In his diatribe against Goyal, Malik in fact was responding to the charges levelled by the Railway Minister that the state government had failed to make arrangements for passengers to travel to railways stations, which resulted in fewer trains for the migrants.
"As many as 85 trains were supposed to run out of 145 trains, till 6 p.m. today (Tuesday), from Maharashtra. However, due to the failure of the state government to make arrangements for passengers, only 27 could run," Goyal said, adding, "I again request the Maharashtra government to help us take back the poor labourers back home."
This is not the first time Goyal has taken a dig at the Maharashtra government over the issue. On Tuesday, he urged the state government to cooperate with railways for operating the Shramik Specials. In a series of tweets, Goyal said, "On request of Maharashtra government, we arranged 145 Shramik Special Trains today. These trains are ready since morning. Fifty trains were to leave till 3 p.m. but only 13 trains have due to lack of passengers."
"Further delays will affect the entire network and planning," Goyal said in another tweet.
His remarks came two days after he asked Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to share the list of passengers for arranging Shramik Specials.
The war of words between the Centre and the state government began after Thackeray commented on Sunday that though the state wanted 80 trains daily to send migrants home, the Railway Ministry was allowing around 30-40 trains.
The Central Railways in a statement said that on Tuesday the national transporter had offered 125 trains for evacuation of migrants from Maharashtra. "But the state government was only able to offer information for 41 trains till 2 a.m. on May 25. Out of these 41 trains, 39 could run as passengers could not be brought by local authorities," the CR said.
It further said that it took meticulous planning and sustained effort to mobilise resources at a very short notice to prepare 145 Shramik trains for Maharashtra on May 26.
"These trains have already been notified for today from Maharashtra as per a state-wise break-up. Till 12 noon, 25 trains were planned from Maharashtra to run, but several departures were cancelled due to lack of passengers. Boarding of the first train could commence at Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus at 12.30 p.m.," it added.
The Central Railways further said that from Maharashtra, 68 Shramik Specials were supposed to leave for Uttar Pradesh, 27 to Bihar, 41 to West Bengal, two to Odisha and Tamil Nadu and one each to Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Kerala.
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan late on Tuesday night also hit out at the Railway Minister saying the national transporter was sending trains to Kerala without prior information and that it would undermine measures taken to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Vijayan said the issue had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Vijayan said last week, after the railways sent a train to Kerala from Mumbai without informing the state government about its stop in Kannur, he had written to the Railway Minister saying the state must be informed in advance about such trains.
"The Minister was told that such a step would dent the steps being taken by the government to contain the disease. But, the railways decided to send a train to Kerala from Mumbai. This has been brought to the attention of the Prime Minister," Vijayan said.
"Trains are coming to Kerala from all parts of the country. Our only condition is that there should be prior intimation from the Railways. They should give us a list of passengers who have booked tickets. In the same way, it is important and compulsory for passengers to register on the Covid Jagratha portal before the journey. We will be prepared to receive the passengers," he said.
From May 21 to 25, several Shramik Special trains were delayed for hours as these were diverted due to congestion on the Jabalpur-Manikpur section.
The railways has said that the issue of congestion has now been resolved.
The Indian Railways, which has suspended the passenger, mail and express train services from March 25 amid the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus has started Shramik Specials from May 1.
The railways also started to operate 15 pairs of the Special air-conditioned trains from May 12.
The Shramik Specials were started to transport stranded migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims and students.
A senior railway ministry official on Tuesday said till Monday, 3,274 Shramik Specials have been run which ferried 44 lakh passengers to their home states.
On Monday, railways said it has operated 223 Shramik Specials and transported 2.8 lakh passengers. The railways has planned to operate 200 trains from June 1 on the time-table basis, bookings for which have already started.