Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Ajay Kumar Lallu was arrested on Wednesday for staging a protest related to his party’s offer to ferry migrant workers in buses, reported PTI. Senior party leaders Pradeep Mathur, Vivek Bansal and Manoj Dixit were also arrested.
The Congress leaders were booked under Sections 188 (disobeying order promulgated by a public servant) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, according to The Hindu.
On Tuesday, Lallu and several other Congress leaders were detained for protesting on the Bharatpur- Agra highway against the Uttar Pradesh government’s allegations that the list of buses provided by the Congress contained registration numbers of autorickshaws and cars. A video shared by Congress leader Nadeem Javed showed four police officers carrying Lallu to their car.
The Adityanath-led government and the Congress have been wrangling over the transportation arrangements for stranded migrant workers. This began with party leader Priyanka Gandhi’s Vadra’s offer to provide 1,000 buses to the state government. A day after accepting the Congress’s offer of 1,000 buses, the UP government on Tuesday tweaked its instructions and asked the party to send 500 buses at each of the state’s border with Delhi in Noida and Ghaziabad.
Initially, the government had demanded the party should hand over all the buses, along with the fitness certificates and licences of all drivers, to authorities at Lucknow by 10 am on Tuesday. In return, the Congress accused the state government of making “politically motivated” demands that revealed it’s apathy and lack of conviction to help those who were stranded at the state borders.
During an online press briefing on Wednesday, Vadra appealed to the UP government to set aside political differences and prioritise the well-being of migrant workers. “We [Congres] parked 900 buses on Rajasthan-UP border and Ghaziabad border yesterday,” she said. “If these buses had run, about 72,000 people would have reached their homes safely in two days. But our buses were not allowed to enter.”
“The buses have been there for 24 hours now,” she added. “Please give us permission. Please put BJP flags or stickers if you want to but let these buses run.” Vadra added that the Congress would recall the buses if they were not allowed to go through.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Vadra had lashed out at the UP government for creating hurdles in her party’s efforts to help migrant workers. “When we got a chance to set aside politics to help desperate migrants, they [the UP government] created all possible hurdles,” she had said.
Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati, meanwhile, hit out at both the Congress and the Uttar Pradesh government for politicising the matter. “The BJP and Congress are doing politics in the name of sending migrant workers home over the last few days,” she tweeted. “This is very unfortunate.” She added that the Congress should pay for the train tickets of migrant workers instead of staying insistent on providing buses.
The Centre has been criticised by the Opposition for the plight of migrant workers, who continue to make desperate journeys home on foot or on any mode of transport they can find amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. Several migrant workers have been killed in accidents on their way.
After massive backlash, the Centre on Tuesday asked the states and Union Territories to proactively coordinate on the operation of more trains to take migrant workers back to their hometowns, and make arrangements for food and shelter. The instructions came after over 50 days into the lockdown.