Why government took so much time to give data on deaths onboard Shramik Special trains, asks TMC

Party's Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien had sought to know from the Railway Ministry in Rajya Sabha about the number of deaths on board migrant special trains.

Published: 20th September 2020 02:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2020 02:22 AM   |  A+A-

Shramik Special trains. (Photo | Shriram B N)


NEW DELHI: Accusing the Centre of fudging data, the Trinamool Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien hit out at the government on Saturday over 97 deaths on board Shramik Special trains and asked why it took so much time to come up with the data.

At a press briefing, O'Brien who had sought to know from the Railway Ministry in Rajya Sabha about the number of deaths on board migrant special trains operated during the coronavirus-forced lockdown, alleged till the reply by minister Piyush Goyal, there was no clear mention of death of migrant workers, despite opposition parties demanding answers.

"Up till now, the minister has been saying seven to eight deaths, and there was no clear mention of the actual numbers. These are the questions that the government does not want the opposition to ask which is why Question Hour was cancelled. Every time you ask them questions, they will say no data is available," said O'Brien, who is also the national spokesperson of the TMC.

"The only data that they have is of their opponents who they want to harass and intimidate," he alleged.

Railway Minister Goyal informed Rajya Sabha on Friday that based on data provided by state police, 97 people have been reported dead till September 9 while travelling onboard Shramik Special Trains during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said out of the 97 deaths, state police sent bodies for post mortem in 87 cases.

Reports of 51 post mortems have been obtained from state police forces so far, in which the reasons for deaths have been shown as cardiac arrest, heart disease, brain hemorrhage, pre-existing chronic disease, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease and others, the Union minister said.

Shramik Special trains began operation on May 1 to ferry migrant labourers back to their home states during the lockdown period.

In all, 4,621 Shramik Special trains were operated between May 1 and August 31, carrying 6,319,000 passengers to their home states, the ministry said.

The statement of the railway minister comes after the government came under criticism when the labour ministry earlier this week informed parliament that no data is available on the number of migrant workers who lost their lives during the 68-day lockdown enforced to curb the spread of COVID-19.

O'Brien on Saturday further said while the government was trying to evade questions from the opposition, this time, "they were caught".

"One has to understand that the government cannot decide which questions are taken up because they are decided through a lottery system. So, they had no control over this question, they had to answer. They were caught."

"It is unfortunate that I couldn't ask him supplementary questions in response to the answer he gave me," said O'Brien, adding that such data on death of migrant workers on board Shramik Special trains was an example of information that the government is unwilling to provide to the public.

He also said by cancelling question hour, the government has done away with around 400 questions that could have been raised by MPs, holding the government accountable.


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