Facing criticism from the Opposition for its handling of the migrant crisis amid the ongoing pandemic, the Mamata Banerjee government has introduced a WhatsApp chatbot and a toll-free number for people from Bengal stranded in other states and those stranded within the province.
The government has also come up with an automated e-pass system for such people.
In a circular issued on Thursday, the government said: “For the convenience of all persons, stranded within and outside the state of West Bengal, an automated e-Pass system has been developed and uploaded in the Egiye Bangla portal: http://www.wb.gov.in for entry to and exit from West Bengal by own arrangements. Intending persons just need to enter the required details at the link provided below and can get the required pass generated.”
People can register their details “by sending ‘hi’ to WhatsApp number 8017845555 or sending SMS to 51969”, the government said. A toll-free number, 1070, will provide details and remain functional throughout the day, it added.
So far, two trains have brought back more than 2,500 migrant labourers and pilgrims to the state from Rajasthan and Kerala.
The Congress has accused the TMC government of not requesting the Ministry of Railways for enough special trains to bring back the workers. State party chief Somen Mitra reiterated the claim that the Congress’s Lok Sabha leader, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had made on Thursday, and demanded answers from the state administration. “So far only two trains have come here. Instead of requesting for [more] trains, the state government is issuing e-pass for such people. This tug of war between Centre and the state to bring back migrants labourers must end,” Mitra said.
The BJP too hit out at the Mamata Banerjee government.
“The state government must initiate talks for this. It should take active steps to arrange for their transportation. The Centre is there to extend its help. But it is the responsibility of the state government to bring back such people,” said state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.
In response, the TMC accused the Opposition of maligning the state government’s image to reap political dividends.
“The BJP at first tarnished our image by stating false facts regarding COVID-19 cases and deaths. Now it is playing politics over migrant labourers issue. They have no other work than to engage in a smear campaign. The state government is doing whatever it can,” said minister Rajib Banerjee.
Meanwhile, social welfare organisation Bangla Sanskriti Mancha urged the Union Home Ministry to take cognizance of plight of labourers stranded in other states.