Hitting out at the BJP for criticising her over alleged apathy towards migrant workers, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today claimed to have spent around Rs 200 crore for them and requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide a one-time assistance of Rs 10,000 to each worker from PM-CARES.
“People who are unable to pay the train fares of the migrant workers are now preaching to us. They are instigating the migrant workers and playing politics over the issue. They (BJP leaders) are saying that we are not allowing migrant workers inside our state. If we had not allowed the migrants, how come 8.5 lakh workers have already entered the state (among which 2.5 lakh arrived by train and 6.5 lakh by road) and another 1.5 lakh are set to arrive within 10 June (by Shramik Special trains),” said Miss Banerjee at a Press Conference in Nabanna.
Ms Banerjee’s statement comes a day after Union Home Minister Amit Shah slammed her, claiming she did not allow enough trains to ferry migrants wanting to return to the state from various parts of the country though other states had behaved responsibly, accepted migrant workers in large numbers and allowed more trains.
She said that the Railways has both commercial and social obligations and that “railway was getting derailed because of politics”. “I appeal to the Centre to please cooperate with the state government. We want a ‘development bridge’ between the Centre and the state. Let’s work together,” she said.
Giving a detailed account of the expenses borne by the state government for the migrant workers, Ms Banerjee said Rs 25 crore is being paid to the Railways for ferrying workers in 235 trains of which Rs 12 crore has already been paid.
Apart from this, Rs 11 crore has been spent for ferrying workers in 9,000 buses and another Rs 4 crore for bringing students from Kota. Rs 45.7 crore was spent for ‘Sneher Paras’ scheme under which Rs 1,000 was given to the stranded workers.
The state government spends Rs 3 crore per day for accommodating workers in the institutional quarantine centres, Rs 7 to 8 crore for health screening and apart from that there were several additional expenses. For ‘Prachesta’ scheme, Rs 16.5 crore was given to 1.62 lakh workers. Along with this, the government is distributing free ration till September, she said, adding that a total of Rs 200 crore has been spent for their cause.
“I’ve already raised my concern regarding migrant workers before the Prime Minister during the video conference with chief ministers and said that had the workers been sent before the lockdown then there would not have been so much trouble.
They were not given food and (medical) treatment. Our state paved the way by bearing the travel expenses of the workers,” said Miss Banerjee. Taking to Twitter, Miss Banerjee wrote: “People have been facing economic hardship of unimaginable proportions bcz of the ongoing pandemic. I appeal to Central Govt to transfer 10,000 each as one-time assistance to migrant labourers including people in unorganized sector. A portion of PMCARES could be used for this.”
Ms Banerjee said that in view of dearth of transport facilities and absence of metro and local trains, government employees would not be marked ‘absent’ or ‘late’. Seventy per cent employees have been asked to attend office on alternative days. During the video conference with DMs of all districts, Miss Banerjee asked district authorities of Howrah to take necessary measures for containing the infection as the district has been ranking first or second in the list of Coronaaffected districts.
She said Rs 25 to 30 crore would be spent for providing masks to school students, ICDS children, Asha workers, civic volunteers and police personnel. In view of two drivers being detected coronavirus positive, the state secretariat will be closed for two days for sanitizing the premises.