Emphasising on the plight of migrants and the money being charged from them for ferrying them back to their home, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday said that the party will bear the cost of their rail tickets.
In a statement, Sonia Gandhi said, our workers and labourers form the "backbone" of our economy and their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation.
She said that 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 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 resolve," she said.
The Congress leader lamenting at the government said, "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."
"What is particularly disturbing is that the Central government and the rail ministry are charging them for train tickets in this hour of crisis," she said.
Sonia Gandhi said, "The Congress has, therefore, taken a decision that every Pradesh Congress Committee (state unit) 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 Congress' humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them," she said. Her remarks came amid the reports that the migrants were being charged for their travel by trains to their respective states.
The railways have earlier said that it was charging the state governments for the Shramik special train tickets. The railways also clarified that the Shramik Special trains are meant for "nominated people" identified and registered by state governments and the railways will not issue any tickets to any individual or entertain any request from any groups.
The railways has started to run the Shramik Special trains for transporting the labourers from May 1, almost 40 days after the passenger, mail and Express trains services were suspended. Till now the national transporter has run over a dozen of Shramik Special trains on the request of the state governments to ferry the migrant labourers.
'Labourers are ambassadors of our nation's growth'
Emphasising on the role of labourers in the country's growth she said that they are the ambassadors of our nation's growth.
Attacking the government, she further said that 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 said that Congress has been raising the issue of transporting the migrants from the outset of the lockdown. "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," she said.