Union minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday criticised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after he accused the Centre of earning profits by operating the special trains to transport stranded migrant workers during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the country.

“Only those who looted the country can describe subsidy as profit,” Goyal tweeted. “The railways spent more money in running Shramik trains than it received from state governments. People are now asking what happened to Sonia [Gandhi] ji’s promise of paying for people’s tickets.”

On May 4, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had said that the party will pay for the migrants’ tickets, after the Union government decided to charge them Rs 50. The next day, the Centre backtracked, denying that it had decided to charge the labourers, despite its own circular attesting to the same. Later, it clarified that it would pay 85% of the fare, with the remaining 15% being subsidised by state governments.

Gandhi, who has been attacking the Narendra Modi government almost regularly, tagged a news report that said the railways made a profit of Rs 428 crore by running Shramik Special trains. However, official data showed that railways spent much more than it earned through fares – around Rs 2,400 crore – in operating the trains, according to PTI.

“There are ‘clouds’ of disease and people are in trouble, but one seeks to benefit – this anti-people government is converting a disaster into profits and is earning,” he tweeted.

Hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers began journeys home on foot in March, after the Centre imposed a countrywide lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The migrants were left without jobs and means of transportation to reach home. Some died on the way due to illness and exhaustion. Faced with fierce criticism over the migrant workers crisis, the Centre had launched over 300 Shramik special trains on May 1.

The last train ran on July 9. However, Railway board chairperson VK Yadav had said on Thursday that the railways would continue to operate trains if the demand arose from the states.