15/05/2020 1:26 PM IST

West Bengal Coronavirus Update: Yellow Taxis To Ply From Monday; Piyush Goyal Slams Mamata Over 'Shramik Trains'

While Mamata Banerjee said that 105 special trains would bring back workers from West Bengal from across the country, Goyal claimed that her statement was not true.

NurPhoto via Getty Images
Yellow Ambassador Taxi are parked on a roadside on the first day of the government-imposed nationwide lockdown  in Kolkata on March 25, 2020. 

West Bengal on reported 87 new coronavirus cases in the state and eight more deaths as the Mamata Banerjee government mulled steps to ease the lockdown in the state. 

The government said that from Monday the state’s yellow taxis will resume operations following a set of guidelines. 

Union Railways minister Piyush Goyal meanwhile slammed Mamata Banerjee after she announced 105 trains to bring home migrant workers from Bengal back home. 

1,394 active cases

According to the government bulletin, the number of active cases in West Bengal stood at 1,394. This was after 8 people died and 66 were discharged. 

The bulletin said that the death toll from coronavirus cases was at 143, without adding the 72 deaths of Covid-19 positive patients who had co-morbidities. 

The Union government put the death toll number at 215, counting the 72 deaths of those who had co-morbidities.

Yellow taxis to ply from Monday 

The yellow taxis in the state will begin plying from Monday, the Bengal Taxi Association (BTA) said. 

PTI reported that they will run with a 30% fare hike and social distancing rules. 

The report said that only two passengers would be allowed to board the metered taxis and that both would have to sit in the back seat.

BTA secretary Bimal Guha told PTI that in a meeting with senior West Bengal Transport department officials on Thursday, the association proposed the 30% over meter readings at present rates.

Guha said that taxi services in the city is likely to recommence from Monday itself following the end of the third phase of the nationwide lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, only a few taxis were being allowed to travel in the city for emergencies only.

Mamata, Modi govt lock horns over Shramik trains

Mamata Banerjee on Thursday took to Twitter to announce that the state government had arranged 105 special trains from various destinations across India to bring workers from Bengal back home. 

“Towards our commitment to helping all our people stuck in different parts of the country and who want to return back to Bengal, I am pleased to announce that we have arranged 105 additional special trains,” Banerjee said on Twitter. 

Banerjee shared a train schedule in her tweets that said that the state government was working with other states to arrange for the trains.  

However, union railway minister Piyush Goyal dismissed her statement, saying the Bengal government had done nothing to provide assistance to workers from the state and allowed on seven  ‘Shramik Special’ trains.

PTI reported Goyal as saying, despite his appeal to the state government to allow more ‘Shramik Special’ trains, there has been no response from it, he added.

The ruling Trinamool Congress of West Bengal hit back and accused Goyal of being absent during this monumental crisis.

But later in the day Goyal tweeted “After my statement yesterday, the West Bengal government has woken up from its deep sleep. The government has yet allowed only seven trains for migrant workers... The workers of Bengal are far from their homes, so I had appealed to allow them to run more trains.”

West Bengal needs to run 105 ‘Shramik Special’ trains daily to take stranded migrants back home, but “there is unconfirmed news that for the next 30 days they have prepared a list of just 105 trains”, he said.

“It is a cruel joke with the migrant workers of West Bengal that the government there is not giving them the facility to go to their houses,” Goyal said.

The railway minister said, “So far, the government of West Bengal has not allowed eight trains to run, as per its announcement last week.”

“This is a petty attempt to trick West Bengal’s migrant workers, and the government is running away from its responsibility to take the poor labourers home. Uttar Pradesh cleared 400 trains in less than 15 days and brought its migrant workers home. Instead of showing this kind of alacrity, the West Bengal government is preventing the labourers from getting assistance,” he claimed. 

Goyal urged the West Bengal government to think about the interests of the workers who have to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state should allow the Railways to run more special trains as soon as possible to take stranded migrants home, he said.

The railway minister’s statement did not go down well with the TMC, which dubbed it as “cheap politics and an attempt to score political brownie points at the time of crisis”.

“The minister has been all but absent during this monumental crisis when millions of poor migrant workers have been abandoned. They’ve been left to fend for themselves, stuck all over the country waiting for some help from government to safely return to their homes and families,” TMC Rajya Sabha party leader Derek O’ Brien said.

O’ Brien talked about how the Indian Railways had the capacity of ferrying 23 million people but those struggling were being ignored by the government. 

Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, however, welcomed the move by the state government and said it should have taken the steps several days earlier.

(With PTI inputs)