Centre’s inhuman & unscientific packing of migrant workers in trains is causing increase in COVID-19 cases: Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday reiterated that the Central government’s handling of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation while sending migrant workers was contributing to spreading the disease rapidly in Bengal.

“When the trains are arriving, people in villages and towns are getting scared, and saying ‘there comes the Coronavirus Express’… it is leading to law and order issues in the state,” Banerjee said. There were 344 new Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in West Bengal reported on Thursday, with 2,573 active cases in the state.

A day after the state reported the highest number of cases so far – 344 positive cases – Banerjee said that though the Bengal government was paying for the fare of the workers returning, the railway authorities were simply packing them off and sending them without social distancing, without food and water.

“It’s inhuman… we are paying for the travel of the migrant workers. But they are simply being packed off and sent without maintaining social distancing. Many are getting the virus in this way,” Banerjee said. She added that the number of bogeys in the train could have been increased or more trains could have been arranged. “Indian Railways should have a social responsibility and not just monetary concerns,” she said.

The state government had already raised the concern that a large number of trains from states with huge number of COVID-19 cases were being sent one after the other to West Bengal. “We understand the need for people to return, but there should be a gap between trains for us to ensure checks for all those who arrive, quarantining those who need it, and conducting tests,” Banerjee said. However, she rued that the Centre hadn’t planned it that way and was pushing the migrant workers into Bengal without concern for the possibility of further spread of the virus.

Banerjee alleged that the Central government authorities were not following the lockdown rules that had been set by them. “You have run trains during the lockdown, and you are not following social distancing in the trains,” she said.

She also said that though the Centre had set a “curfew” hour between 7 pm to 7 am every day, the trains and flights were arriving beyond this time, “so how should these people do home?” she asked. She said that there were “several contradictions” in the rules set by the Centre, and “special permissions” had to be given after getting clarifications.

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