Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday slammed the Centre for not providing free train service to migrant labourers and added that state units of the party will bear the cost of rail travel of migrant workers and labourers stranded in various parts of the country.
“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,” a statement issued by the Congress chief said.
The statement comes in the backdrop of Home ministry’s announcement on Friday that Indian Railways will operate ‘Shramik Special’ trains to ferry migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students stranded in various parts of the country to their hometowns.
However, a provision in the SOP for special trains issued by the Indian Railways drew flak from various quarters. The provision said, “The local state government authority shall hand over the tickets to the passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to Railways.”
The railways’ SOP also said the responsibility for food, security, health scanning, providing tickets to the stranded will be with the state from which the train is originating.
The SOPs received criticism from various quarters for being indifferent to poor migrants, who are pushed to acute poverty due to job loss caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.
“Our workers and labourers form the backbone of our economy. Their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation,” Gandhi’s statement said.
“When our Government can recognised 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 Minister 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 ?” Gandhi asked.
The statement also said that the Congress has repeatedly raised this issue with the Central Government and the Rail Ministry but have not received any favourable response.
“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,” Gandhi said.
“This will be the Indian National Congress’ humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them,” the statement added.