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New Delhi, May 4, 2020
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said the party had decided that every Pradesh Congress Committee in the states shall bear the cost for the rail travel of every needy worker and migrant labourer even as the Government began running special trains to transport them to their home states.
The trains are being run because tens of thousands of workers were stranded without any job or income in their places of work in different states due to the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"This will be the Indian National Congress’ humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them," Gandhi said in a statement.
She said workers and labourers formed the backbone of the country's economy. "Their hard work and sacrifice are the foundation of our nation," she said.
Gandhi said that, as the Central Government barely gave a four-hour notice of the lockdown when the lockdown was imposed on March 25, 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 homeseveral 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.
"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. What is particularly disturbing is that the Central Government and the Rail Ministry are charging them for train tickets in this hour of crisis.
"Our workers and labourers are the ambassadors of our nation’s growth. 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?" Gandhi asked.
"The Indian National Congress has been raising this issue from the outset of the lockdown. There needs 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 added.