Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi has launched a scathing attack on the Centre for charging the stranded migrant labourers returning home for their train travel in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) induced lockdown and said that the Congress will bear the cost of their travel.
Gandhi slammed the government for not giving stranded migrants a free train ride home despite “100 crores” being spent on an event in Gujarat during the Trump visit and Rs 151 crore contributed by the railways to the PM-Cares fund.
“Our workers and labourers form the backbone of our economy. Their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation. As the Central Government barely gave a four-hour notice of the lockdown, workers and migrant labourers were denied the opportunity to return to their homes,” Gandhi wrote in her statement this morning.
She said that 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 re-solve,” she added.
Even today, said the Congress chief, lakhs of workers and migrant labourers were “languishing in different parts of the country” and wished to return to their homes and families but didn’t have money or 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. Our workers and labourers are the ambassadors of our nation’s growth. 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 crore on transport and food etc. for just one public programme in Gujarat when the Rail Ministry has the largesse to donate Rs 151 crore 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,” she wrote further.
The Centre, she said, barely gave a four-hour notice of the lockdown, so workers and migrant labourers were denied the opportunity to return to their homes.
“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,” she wrote.
She said the Centre and the Railways Ministry had chosen to “completely ignore” the Congress’s repeated demands to help the migrants.
“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,” she said.