Shramik Special Trains: Railways feigns ignorance, Labour Ministry says 3,700 trains were run for migrants

In reply to RTIs, Ministry of Railways said it does not have records pertaining to the trains used to ferry migrants, while Ministry of Labour and Employment readily shared all the details

Photo courtesy: Twitter/@DDNewslive
Photo courtesy: Twitter/@DDNewslive
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Vishwadeepak

Ministry of Railways, which is responsible for running one of the largest rail networks in the world, does not know how many Shramik Special Trains were deployed to transport migrants to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Besides, when asked, it chose to pass the buck.

On the other hand, Ministry of Labour and Employment claims that 3,700 Shramik Special Trains were deployed to ferry 50 lakh migrants to their respective states.

Who is speaking the truth or why two important ministries of the Modi government are contradicting each other on an important issue deserves to be investigated, but two things are very clear:

1) Modi government 2.0 is suffering from a severe policy paralysis

2) There is lack of coordination between two arms of the same government

In reply to two RTIs filed by activist Navneet Chaturvedi, it has come to the fore that Ministry of Railways does not have records pertaining to the number of Shramik Special Trains used to ferry the migrants while Ministry of Labour and Employment readily shared the number of trains as well as the total number of the migrants transported by the special trains.

On May 22, Chaturvedi filed an RTI application with the Ministry of Railways seeking information about the total number of the migrants transported to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by Shramik Special Trains along with the number of rail coaches turned into quarantine facility till May 22.

Ministry of Railways reply to RTI filed by Navneet Chaturvedi
Ministry of Railways reply to RTI filed by Navneet Chaturvedi

Ministry of Railways, currently headed by Piyush Goyal, who is otherwise known to make headlines by delivering milk in running trains, disposed of the query on June 23, saying “no item pertains to the questions” and redirected the queries to the Railway Board.

Though many believe that the Ministry has only followed the precedence as it is the Board which is answerable to the running of the trains, others think the Ministry cannot shrug off the responsibility.

“Usually due to a different bureaucratic setup, Railways function in a different manner in comparison to other ministries, with the Board being at the helm of the functioning side. However, in this particular case, it cannot be denied that the Ministry chose to play safe first by not answering the query within 30 days and then by passing the ball to the Board,” said an expert on condition of anonymity.

Labour Ministry reply to the RTI filed by Navneet Chaturvedi
Labour Ministry reply to the RTI filed by Navneet Chaturvedi

Disappointed by the response of the Railways, Chaturvedi filed another application with the Ministry of Labour and Employment on June 16 seeking almost similar details.

Chaturvedi asked the Ministry to reveal the total number of people who lost their jobs across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic and action taken by the ministry to transport migrants by bus or trains.

Ministry of Labour and Employment said in its reply received on June 23 that between May 1 to 27, a total of 50 lakh migrants were sent to their home by Shramik Special Trains and another 41 lakhs were transported by buses or other vehicles. According to the reply sent by the Ministry, 3700 trains were operated between May 1 to 27.

Contradictory answers by the two important ministries of the Modi government on an important issue such as the migrants crisis left the activist in shock. “I was shocked in the beginning but then I realized that this is their style of functioning. Railway Minister speaks on issues related to finance and economy, Textile Minister talks on behalf of Education Minister and Minister of Environment answers queries pertaining to the Home Department…” he said.

“Modi’s ministers have mastery over the art of deception,” said Chaturvedi, adding, “Modi came with the promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ but it has been remodelled as ‘minimum governance, maximum utterance’ by his colleagues”.

A call to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Railways did not get any response. We will update the story as and when we receive a response from the ministry.

Meanwhile, the Railway Board on Tuesday, told media that 4,436 Shramik Special Trains transported more than 62 lakh migrant workers to their home states since May 1.

“As of now there is no pendency in payment by any state for the Shramik Special services. However, we cannot give you a consolidated amount of money they paid as the services are still running. Currently, we have a demand for 15 trains. We will run these services as long as they are needed,” PS Mishra, Member Traffic, Railway Board, was quoted as saying by media.

However, it remains to be answered how can the Ministry of Railways not have data about the Shramik Special Trains even as the Ministry of Labour and Employment could had access to the same piece of information? And why is there so much contradiction between two ministries of the Modi government?

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Published: 24 Jun 2020, 5:47 PM
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