NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday accused the Centre of distorting facts on payments for Shramik Special train services and demanded that Railway Minister Piyush Goyal either resign or be removed from the post.
The Railways has maintained that 85 per cent of the expense of Shramik Special trains, ferrying migrant workers stranded due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown, was being borne by the Centre and the states were only paying 15 per cent in the form of fares.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the central government has not spent a single penny on running special trains for migrant workers returning home as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has made it clear before the Supreme Court that state governments receiving or sending migrants were to pay for them.
"It is now clear that the Central government has been distorting facts and being less than fair with the public regarding rail travel for labourers and migrant labourers.
"This is a very serious point on which we need to pin down the government.With this kind of clear contradictions, how is it that the railway minister will not resign or will not be removed? One of the two must happen," Singhvi said at a press conference.
The Modi government "did not spend a single penny" on the travel of migrant workers, he said, adding that Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders had been claiming that the Centre was bearing 85 per cent of the cost of trains.
Instead, the railways levied a superfast charge of Rs 30 and an additional Rs 20 for food and water while the impression given by the government was that everything was being given free, the Congress leader alleged.
"Which government fails to provide food and water to people and then lies about it?" he posed.
Singhvi said that according to an analysis, of the 3,740 trains that ran since May 1 about 40 per cent were recorded as late with an average delay of 8 hours.
A total of 421 trains were delayed for 10 hours or AND around 10 pc or some 373 Shramik Specials were late by 10-24 hours, he claimed, adding 78 trains were delayed by a day or more and 43 trains say 30 hours of delay and some added two days or more over and above their scheduled journey time.
"This is the true state of what is happening with the migrants and the railways. Things that we shared nails the government's lies. With this, how is it that the Railway Minister has not resigned or has not been removed?" he asked.
It is admitted that at least 81 deaths have happened and there are allegations that more fatalities occurred but have not being declared by the railways, Singhvi said.
He said Home Minister Amit Shah gave a "strange explanation" that a few migrant labourers had lost patience and started walking home during the lockdown, even though the Centre had provided adequate facilities for them to return home.
He recalled that the solicitor general had said in the Supreme Court that all the cost of the rail travel of migrants has to be borne by sending states or receiving states and there is no mention of the Centre.
"While the SC says provide free of cost, here all sorts of charges are being levied on trains.
Who is lying? Why this distortion?" he said.
"If the BJP (leaders) had their hearts in the right place to help migrant workers, such massive failures would not have occurred," Singhvi said.