Migrants from Jaipur arrive by Shramik Special train at Danapur junction, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus
Migrants from Jaipur arrive by Shramik Special train at Danapur junction, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus (representational image) | PTI
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New Delhi: A new set of guidelines issued by the Narendra Modi government Tuesday allows the Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Home Affairs to now decide the movement of Shramik trains across the country. The order has no mention of the earlier clause of mandatory consent from states for receiving the trains.

“Movement of Shramik Special Trains shall be permitted by Ministry of Railways (MoR), in consultation with Ministry of Home Affairs,” the new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) says.

The decision comes in the aftermath of accusations from Home Minister Amit Shah and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal against opposition-ruled states such as West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand of not allowing trains for migrant workers to enter their states.

A source in the railways ministry said a need was felt for such a change because the migrant crisis needs to be addressed, and some states were not cooperating despite constant prodding from the Centre.

However, the state governments will continue to be consulted “at great lengths” to ensure the smooth movement of migrants, added the source.

A home ministry spokesperson confirmed that after this order, the explicit consent of state governments would not be needed to ply migrant trains.

A railway ministry spokesperson too confirmed that the consent of states is not needed now.

Also read: Social distancing nightmare in Ghaziabad as hundreds of migrants jostle to get to trains

What the states will have to do now

According to the new SOP, states will be required to “designate nodal authorities and make necessary arrangements for receiving and sending such stranded persons”.

“The train schedule including stoppages and destination shall be finalized by MoR based on the requirements of States/UTs and shall be communicated to the States/UTs for making special arrangements for sending and receiving such stranded workers,” it adds.

According to the earlier guidelines issued on 2 May, the approval of the state for the requisition of trains was explicitly mandated.

“The originating State will finalise the requirement of special trains in consultation with receiving States and communicate the requirement of special trains to the nodal officer of Railways,” the earlier guidelines said.

“The consent of receiving state shall be obtained by originating state and a copy provided to Railways before departure of train,” it further said.

Ongoing dispute

The decision came just five days after Piyush Goyal accused the governments of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand of not allowing Shramik trains to enter their states.

“It pains me that several states such as West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, are not giving enough permissions for ‘Shramik special trains’ to enter their states,” he had said.

The claim was, however, immediately rebutted by all the four state governments, arguing that they had no pending requests for Shramik trains.

On 1 May, the Centre had announced that it would run Shramik special trains to ferry stranded migrants to their native villages and towns.

The political wrangling between the Centre and state governments on the issue began on 9 May, with Home Minister Amit Shah writing to the West Bengal government, and blaming Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for denying justice to the migrant workers.

Also read: A train of afterthoughts: How Indian Railways itself became the story in a lockdown


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