The Congress on Friday accused the Centre of “mercilessly” and “cruelly” abandoning migrant workers and criticised the government for “mismanaging” their inter-state movement by only providing buses.
At an online press briefing, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the government’s transport arrangements were not adequate given the number of migrant workers who need to return home. He accused the Centre of not making a proper estimate of the number of migrant workers before allowing inter-state travel. Singhvi also alleged that the government shifted the entire responsibility of transporting people to the state governments.
“There are 25 to 27 lakh migrants who wish to return to Bihar from Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra alone,” Singhvi said. “Nearly 3 lakh labourers want to return to Rajasthan. Odisha said nearly 7 lakh migrants wish to return and Assam has 1.5 lakh migrant labourers stuck in different parts of the country.”
“Nearly 10 lakh labourers are stranded in Delhi,” he said.
Singhvi said that providing only buses to transport such huge numbers of migrant workers is not an adequate solution. “Will the government take three years to send these people back?” he asked. “The government has not taken stock of roadblocks or logistics.”
The Congress leader suggested that the government use trains to ensure smooth inter-state movement of migrant workers. “The government must provide trains and make arrangements for food,” he said. “It is efficient and social distancing can be ensured.” Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had also suggested that the government run sanitised trains to transport migrant workers.
Singhvi said that running one train to transport labourers from Telangana to Jharkhand was a “knee-jerk” reaction that came too late.
A special train carrying 1,200 migrants, who were stranded during the nationwide lockdown, left from Lingampally in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand on Friday morning. This is the first such train arranged since the nationwide lockdown. Opposition-ruled states such as Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Kerala have urged the Centre to deploy more special trains to transport stranded migrants home.
The Centre on Wednesday issued guidelines to allow states to bring back migrant workers, tourists and students stuck in other states because of the nationwide lockdown. The Centre said that those stranded can be allowed to move only after states consult each other and agree on the movement by road.
India’s coronavirus tally has risen to 35,403 and 1,147 people have died so far.
The Centre has divided districts in the country into red, orange and green zones. All the metro cities including Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai have been included in the list of red zones. These areas are likely to see no exemption of lockdown restrictions even after May 3.