The Congress party on Monday said that each of its state units will bear the cost for train travel of every needy worker and migrant labourer, currently stranded in India's various cities due to a nationwide lockdown and struggling to return home.
The party said this was its "humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them".
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in a statement, said that workers and labourers are the ambassadors of India's growth and asked why they can't be extended " a fraction of the same courtesy" as the ones who were brought back from abroad.
"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?" she asked.
"Our workers and labourers form the backbone of our economy. Their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation," she said.
Launching into a tirade against the BJP-led Central government, Sonia asked what the responsibility of the Centre is? "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," she said.
It is particularly disturbing that central government and railways ailways are charging migrants for train tickets in this hour of crisis, the interim President said.
She said the Centre barely gave a four-hour notice before announcing the lockdown, thereby denying the maigrant workers any chance to return.
The Congress party's decision comes at a time when the Centre is facing severe criticism for charging migrant workers for their journey back home. The labourers, stranded in many cities as the nationwide lockdown came into effect, had been wanting to return and the concerned state governments had requested the Centre to run special trains for them.
On Sunday, the Karantaka unit of Congress party had presented a cheque of Rs 1 crore to the state road transport corporation to ensure free travel to workers and labourers. Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar tweeted saying the Karnataka government should let the KPCC know if they needed more money and lambasted them for charging migrant workers who are strruggling to reach home.
The grand old part had been pressing for 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," Sonia said.