Chhattisgarh Health and Panchayati Raj Minister TS Singh Deo on Monday welcomed Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi's decision to bear the costs of railway tickets of needy migrant labourers who are returning home amid the lockdown and offered Rs 1 lakh aid on his behalf to support the party in its new 'very-sensitive' initiative.
"It is a very sensitive initiative taken by Sonia Gandhi. It is the misfortune that the leadership in the country right now could not even think that the poor and helpless. Even in the COVID-19 situation, the migrant workers who have no jobs are being charged train fare to reach homes. I welcome the party's decision and I offer Rs 1 lakh to the state unit," Deo told .
The State Minister dismissed the Railways' statement that it is charging only standard fare in Shramik special trains from State governments, which is just 15 per cent of the total cost incurred by Railways. He claimed that "misinterpretation" is being done by the Railways.
Citing the reports from Punjab and Karnataka that labourers were charged for rail travel, he said: "Why to take even a penny from the State government. The Railways is Centre's undertaking. If Railways can donate Rs 151 crore to the Prime Minister's Care fund then can't the Centre provide free rail services to migrants?"
Deo further highlighted the difficulties faced by migrant workers and equated the current situation with the 1947 independence phase, when several people had to walk miles on foot. "Today people are suffering similar to that period but the government cannot make proper arrangements," he said.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had issued a statement stating that her party will bear the cost for rail travel of every needy migrant worker and labourer to their respective home towns during the lockdown.She said that Congress had taken the decision as the Centre and Rail Ministry had completely ignored party's repeated requests to ensure provisions of "safe and free rail travel of migrant workers and labourers to their home-towns."
In an order issued on May 1, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowed the movement of migrant workers, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places through special trains.
( With inputs from ANI )