Taking strong exception to the Union Finance Minister’s criticism of the Congress party’s humanitarian efforts to help the distressed migrants, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments at the Centre and in states for aggravating the migrant crisis and politicising such a grave issue.
The entire Congress party, including all party-led states, were working day and night to support the migrant labourers in this hour of crisis, with his own government having already arranged 149 trains to ferry 1,78,909 migrants to their native states till May 16, said the Chief Minister, adding that the process of facilitating the labourers to go to their homes was still continuing in Punjab.
Reacting strongly to Nirmala Sitharaman’s uncalled-for comment that Sonia should have asked her chief ministers to help the migrants, Captain Amarinder said the Congress president had been holding regular interactions with the party chief ministers on this and other critical Covid and lockdown-related issues.
Captain Amarinder also flayed Nirmala’s comment that Rahul Gandhi should have walked with the migrants when he met them, terming it highly frivolous and totally unbecoming of a senior minister. Instead of ridiculing Rahul, who came out on the roads to extend support and compassion to the migrants, Nirmala should have spoken to the chief minister of the BJP-led UP government to allow entry to the buses arranged by Priyanka Gandhi to transport migrants, he remarked, referring to the buses that were stranded at the Delhi-UP border on account of the UP administration’s refusal to let them enter.
Dismissing Nirmala’s remarks as being in bad taste and clearly politically motivated, not behooving the Finance Minister of the nation, Captain Amarinder said every Congress chief minister, leader and worker was engaged in ensuring that the migrants receive every possible succor in this hour of crisis, when they had been left by the Central government to fend for themselves.
The entire Congress machinery, right from the top leadership, was doing everything possible, on the directions of Sonia, to help the migrants, lakhs of whom were risking their lives in trying to get home, said Captain Amarinder.
He reminded Nirmala that it was only after Sonia asked the party units in all states to pay for the migrants’ train tickets that the Central government announced its decision to finance 85% of the cost, with 15% to be done by the states.
Even that was a joke, considering that the cost being charged for the tickets was that of a chartered train rather than the AC second class sleeper that was being provided to the migrants, he quipped, adding that this effectively meant that the state government was paying 100% of the ticket cost for migrants.
On the directives of Sonia, Congress offices in many places had been turned into kitchens to provide food to migrants and poor, while party MLAs were personally looking into their transportation, said Captain Amarinder.
His own government, said the Chief Minister, had been taking full care of the migrants from the day of the imposition of the national lockdown in March, ensuring that they were provided food and shelter, and even wages/fiscal aid in many cases.
This was the reason why the migrants did not even try to leave Punjab all these weeks, till they finally got the opportunity to meet their families – a natural development in any crisis, he added.
Unlike many BJP-run states, none of the Congress chief ministers had tried to stop any migrants from coming or leaving their states, he said, adding that he had personally ensured that not one migrant labourer in Punjab goes to sleep hungry.
In fact, he pointed out that he had highlighted the plight of migrants as far back as March 30 in a letter to the Prime Minister. Much before the so-called relief package for the migrants, his government had been providing food packets to them on a par with the ration card holders in the state, he said.
The Punjab government had already distributed more than 1 crore dry rations and over 2 crore cooked food packets to the poor, mostly migrants, in the state, he added.
Instead of attacking those who were genuinely trying to help the migrants and the poor, the Centre should, in these devastating times, carry every leader and worker, irrespective of political affiliation, to providing the much-needed support to the people of India, said Captain Amarinder.
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