Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the Centre on Tuesday, a day after the government admitted in Parliament that it had no data on the number of migrants workers who died during the nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Modi government does not know how many migrant workers died or how many people lost their jobs during the lockdown,” he said in a tweet in Hindi. “You didn’t count, so nobody died? The sad thing is that there was no impact on the government. The world saw them dying but the Modi government remained unaware.”
The lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 left lakhs of migrant workers stranded in big cities without work. Hundreds of thousands of them then began long journeys to home on foot, sometimes over distances of more than 1,000 km. Some died on the way due to illness, while others died in road accidents. Some died of exhaustion after walking home in the scorching heat.
Faced with fierce criticism over the migrant crisis, the Centre had launched over 300 “Shramik” special trains on May 1. On June 9, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan had directed the Centre and states to identify stranded migrant workers and transport them back to their hometowns within 15 days.
On the first day of the Monsoon session, members of the Lok Sabha had asked details on whether the government knew the actual number of migrants who died while trying to return to their native places and if state-wise details of the toll was available. They also inquired “whether the government provided any compensation or economic assistance to the victims’ families”.
The labour ministry informed Parliament that “no such data is maintained”, adding that there was “no question of giving compensation” to the victims’ next of kin.
The ministry also said that according to the government’s centralised database, over 1.04 crore migrants returned to their home states, with Uttar Pradesh receiving the highest number of workers at 32.4 lakh. This was followed by Bihar at 15 lakh and Rajasthan, which recorded the return of 13 lakh migrants.
Gandhi has continuously criticised the Narendra Modi-led government over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic apart from other matters such as unemployment, clash with the Chinese along the Line of Actual Control and the decline in Gross Domestic Product figures.
On Monday, he had attacked Modi over the coronavirus pandemic in India and the subsequent lockdown. “The unplanned lockdown is the product of one person’s ego, which has caused the coronavirus to spread across the country.”
On September 9, the Congress leader took a dig at Modi saying that the prime minister promised to end the coronavirus crisis in 21 days but instead finished off small businesses and the livelihoods of crores of people.
India coronavirus tally on Tuesday rose to 49,30,236 as it reported 83,809 new cases in the last 24 hours. The toll rose by 1,054 to 80,776.