Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday said that the party’s State Congress Committees will bear the ticket expense of the train journey of migrant workers who are being sent back to their homes by various states. In a letter to party workers, the interim party chief said that the party will also take necessary steps in this regard. Read in Tamil | Malayalam
“Indian National Congress has taken a decision that every Pradesh Congress Committee shall bear the cost for the rail travel of every needy worker & migrant labourer and shall take necessary steps in this regard,” her letter read. “This will be the Indian National Congress’ humble contribution in service of our compatriots and to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with them.”
Sonia’s letter comes a day after the railways ordered the states to collect train ticket cost from the migrants. In its guidelines published Saturday, Railways said it would hand over the tickets to the originating states and the state would “collect the ticket fare” and hand them over to Railways.
Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said it was a conscious call not to run these trains free of cost so that only those who intend to travel were transported.
“Problem is once you make services free, everyone is eligible to travel. Then who is coming to the stations; who all are travelling would become a problem to track. This service is for stranded migrant workers, students etc only and they are allowed to travel only after thorough screening. These trains are not for general public,” Yadav told The Indian Express. “So we are charging just nominal fare.”
Separately, in a letter to state chief secretaries, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla Sunday sought to clarify that the transport facilitation was only for such “distressed” persons who were stranded after having started from their places of work before the lockdown. “… (it) does not extend to those categories of persons, who are otherwise residing normally at places, other than the native places for purposes of work etc, and who wish to visit their native places in normal course,” it said.
While 31 Shramik Special trains trains have run so far and more are expected over the next 15 days, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot Sunday demanded the Centre and the Railways bear the expenditure on humanitarian grounds since the workers were already facing economic hardships.