India’s main opposition party pledges to train tickets for stranded migrant workers

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India’s main opposition Congress party on Monday attacked the government for charging train tickets from stranded migrant workers and labourers going back to their homes after several weeks of lockdown.

The party president Sonia Gandhi said her party would bear the cost for the rail travel of such migrants.Gandhi in a statement said it was disturbing that the government and the rail ministry were charging stranded workers for train tickets in the hour of crisis. The government barely gave a four-hour notice of the lockdown, following which workers and migrant laborers were denied the opportunity to return to their homes, she said. “Post the partition of 1947, this is the first time India witnessed a tragedy with such a massive human cost as thousands of migrant workers and labourers were forced to walk home several hundred kilometers on foot – without food, without medicines, without money, without transportation, without anything except for the desire to return to their families and loved ones,” she said.

Gandhi said thousands of workers and migrant labourers were “languishing in different parts of the country” and wished to return to their homes and families but did not have money or free transport. “The Indian National Congress has, therefore, taken a decision that every Pradesh (state) Congress Committee shall bear the cost for the rail travel of every needy worker and migrant laborer and shall take necessary steps in this regard,” she said, describing workers and laborers the backbone of India’s economy and the ambassadors of national growth.

Last week the Indian government issued an order to allow the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons, stranded at different places across the country, by special trains to be operated by railways. A nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 is underway in India to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which will likely end on May 17.

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