Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has launched a scathing attack on the Centre for charging migrant labourers returning home for their train travel in the wake of the novel coronavirus lockdown and said that the Congress will bear the cost of their travel.
“Our workers and labourers form the backbone of our economy. Their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation,” she said.
Sonia Gandhi said, “The Indian National Congress has, therefore, taken a decision that every Pradesh Congress Committee shall bear the cost for the rail travel of every needy worker and migrant labourer and shall take necessary steps in this regard. This will be the Indian National Congress’ humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them.”
Attacking the Centre over the crisis of the migrant labourers stranded in different parts of the country, she said, “But what is the responsibility of our Government? Even today, lakhs of workers and migrant labourers are languishing in different parts of the country and wish to return to their homes and families but there is neither adequate money nor provision for free transport. What is particularly disturbing is that the Central Government and the Rail Ministry are charging them for train tickets in this hour of crisis.”
“Post the partition of 1947, this is the first time India witnessed a tragedy with such a massive human cost as thousands of migrant workers and labourers were forced to walk home several hundred kilometres on foot- without food, without medicines, without money, without transportation, without anything except for the desire to return to their families and loved ones. The very thought of their plight is enough to break our hearts as there was also the outpouring of support from fellow Indians for their inspiring resolve,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Questioning the government on the difficulty faced by the migrant labourers, who were stuck away from their homes since the lockdown was imposed, Sonia Gandhi asked, “When our Government can recognise its responsibility by arranging free air travel for our citizens stranded abroad, when the Government can spend nearly Rs. 100 crores on transport and food etc. for just one public programme in Gujarat, when the Rail Ministry has the largesse to donate Rs. 151 Crores to the PM’s Corona fund, then why can’t these essential members of our nation’s fabric be given a fraction of the same courtesy, especially free rail travel, at this hour of acute distress?”
The Indian Railways had issued a set of guidelines for Shramik Special trains to ferry the migrants stranded across the country.
A provision in the SOP, which drew a good deal of flak, said the “local state government shall handover the tickets for these passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to Railways.”
In the SOP, the railways said the responsibility for food, security, health scanning, providing tickets to the stranded will be with the state from which the train is originating. It, however, took the burden of providing one meal to passengers whose journey will be of 12 hours or more.
Easternlink columnist Shikha Mukherjee writes:
Damn the politics — this is the best news for today. The Congress has stepped in. Its pay back time.
A political party — that has been in power for so long — and is in power in several states — has finally taken responsibility for the stranded citizens.
As the government in waiting — whenever it wins at the Centre, in case it does not disintegrate before that — the Congress has done what the BJP government at the Centre should have done.
The BJP government, Modi, knows that the state governments are cash strapped, with deficits building up and no serious relief plan from the Centre. Expecting them to pay is outrageous, when there is a Union government that insists that it speaks for the country of 130 crore.
Moreover, these workers have had enough of charity and generosity and altruism. These workers have not been paid in overwhelmingly large number of cases by their employers. It is likely that the employers are cash strapped.
The Modi government has not come up with a relief plan for cash strapped employers and workers.
Courtesy – IndiaToday