NEW DELHI: With the Opposition training its guns on the Centre for asking migrant workers to pay for their train journey back home, the government on Monday went into damage control, claiming that the workers did not have to pay anything as the railways was bearing 85% of the ticket cost and the state government the rest.
The Centre reacted quickly after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s statement that the party’s state units shall bear the cost for rail travel of every needy worker and migrant labourer.
Both the Karnataka Congress and the party unit in Tamil Nadu had on Sunday announced Rs 1 crore each to their respective state governments for transportation of the hapless workers. Calling it “shameful”, other opposition party leaders, too, attacked the BJP.
While the BJP sought to deflect charges, NDA ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said his state was ready to bear the cost, though it had initially expressed its inability to do so.
However, no official statement has been issued by the railways yet on the issue.
In his daily briefing, joint secretary in the health ministry Lav Agarwal said, “Permission has been given to run special trains for movement of stranded people. The Centre has not ever talked of charging train fare from workers. 85 per cent of fare will be borne by Indian Railways, 15 per cent by the state government.”
Meanwhile, BJP leader B L Santosh claimed only a few states were charging for tickets.
“Only Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala made migrant labourers pay Rs 1,000 for journey. @INCIndia, which runs the first, partner in second, promoter of third wakes up early in the morning and issues a statement telling Party will pay for it,” he tweeted.
On May 2, the railways had said: “Railways shall print tickets...and hand them over to the local state government authority, which shall handover the tickets to the passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare.”