Congress offers to pay rail fares for migrants, BJP clarifies over charges
Congress offers to pay rail fares for migrants, BJP clarifies over charges War of words between BJP and Congress over special train fares for migrants.
Amid the surging plight of the needy, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday stated that every Pradesh Congress Committee or State units of the party will bear the cost for rail travel of migrant workers. Releasing a statement in the matter, Sonia Gandhi slammed the Modi government and Railway ministry for charging fare to bring back migrant workers and laborers in Shramik special trains in the hour of crisis, calling it “disturbing”. In the statement, she condemned the government for barely giving a four-hour notice of lockdown after which the workers and migrant laborers were denied the opportunity to return to their hometowns.
Sonia Gandhi pointed out that the Central government arranged for free air travel for citizens stranded abroad, also reminding that nearly Rs 100 crores were spent on transportation and food for an event in Gujarat during the visit of US President Donald Trump in February 2020.
The Congress chief drew attention to the donation of Rs 151 crore made by the Railway Ministry to the PM-CARES fund, and asked, “why can’t the essential members of the country be given a fraction of the courtesy, especially free rail travel, at the hour of distress?” The Modi government has been under scrutiny over withholding information on the PM-CARES fund which has received hundreds of crores of donations from all walks of society.
This development has come after the Indian Railways launched ‘Shramik’ special trains as authorized by the Home Ministry to ferry laborers, migrant workers, tourists, and students to their homes after got stranded in various parts of the country due to lockdown extension in the country. According to media reports, the Railway Board has announced extra charges of Rs 50 per passenger, in addition to the normal sleeper class far in the special trains which will be operated across different states. According to a statement released by the Railway Ministry, the local state government authorities have been told to hand over the tickets of Shramik trains to passengers and collect the ticket fare, the total amount of which will be handed over to the Railways.
Opposition leaders including Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav have raised voices against the government’s actions of charging train fares from the migrant workers.
However, responding to the Opposition’s attack over train fares, BJP leaders issued a clarification that the Railways has subsidised 85% of train ticket fare for the special trains and the state government can pay the remaining 15% price. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy took to Twitter stating that he spoke to Railways Minister Piyush Goel and assertedthat the migrant labour will travel for free as the government will pay 85% and state government will pay 15% of the train fare. He added that the rail ministry will issue a statement in the matter. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra hit out at Congress MP Rahul Gandhi stating the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government is paying the 15% train fare for migrant workers, and asked the Congress-ruled states to follow suit.
Thousands of stranded migrant workers and laborers chose to walk home after the Modi government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24. India is currently under the third phase of its lockdown which was extended till May 17 by the Amit Shah-led Home Ministry on May 1. Amid the rising number of Coronavirus infected cases, the state governments are easing lockdown restrictions by announcing certain reliefs to standalone shops. As of May 4, the country has recorded more than 42,500 COVID-19 cases. Over 11,000 people have recovered from the deadly disease.