- Congress offering to pay rail travel for the migrant workers and needy
- The railways is charging for sleeper class tickets in addition to other charge
On Monday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that her party will take care of the rail travel cost of the needy and migrants across the country as they return to their homes. Railways official stand has been that states have to take care of the travel costs.
Congress party has been raising issue of the migrants for over a month and have been highlighting the need to make sure they return safely to their home states. In a statement issued on Monday morning, Gandhi said the requests made to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard have not been paid heed to.
“There need to be provisions for the safe and free rail travel of migrant workers and labourers to their home-towns. However, despite our repeated demands, the Central Government and the Rail Ministry have chosen to completely ignore the same,” Gandhi said in a statement adding that the state units would take care of the expenses “in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them”.
Many leaders from opposition parties including Chief Minister of Jharkhand Hemant Soren who leads Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav have openly criticized the Central Government over the weekend on this move.
The Railways is charging for sleeper class tickets and a super-fast charge of ₹30 along with an additional charge of ₹20 for the Shramik Specials (migrants special). Guidelines issued by the Indian Railways said, “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”.
As per a senior official of Indian Railways, the cost is being stomached by the states following the guidelines. It is the entitlement of the state which is sending the migrants to decide whether they want to bear this cost or take it from passengers or take it from the receiving state after mutual consultation.
Sonia Gandhi also said, “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. Post the partition of 1947, this is the first time India witnessed a tragedy with such a massive human cost,”.
She added, “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,”.
The Central Government has money for arranging travel of those stranded abroad for events but not for free rail travel in this scenario, she claimed.
Sonia Gandhi said that the “humble contribution” of the Congress Party for the transportation of the migrants could have been inspired by the party’s Karnataka unit. Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar said that the state unit was giving a cheque of ₹1 crore to the transport department towards payment of the train fare.
With growing criticism over the issue, Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa directed the transport department to charge only single fare for ferrying the migrant labourers to their home and not to charge to and fro, as the state would bear its operational cost.