Fury over Ferry

The first special train with 1225 passengers was on May 1 to Jharkhand from Telangana.

Thank you KCR sir, was the line heard from passengers in Shramik Special Trains in which migrant workers travelled to their hometown. The emotions of these migrants were mixed. Emotional and teary-eyed, yet a sense of relief and a beaming smile, that they finally are returning to their native to meet their families.

Many of them who spoke to the media thanked the Telangana government and continued saying that they would return back to Telangana after the lockdown was completely lifted and things return close to normalcy. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao right from the beginning of lockdown restrictions ensured that the partners of State’s development, as coined by KCR himself, were taken care properly. Entire nation appreciated Telangana government’s decision to provide financial assistance of Rs 500 as well as 12 kg rice to migrant labour. More than the monetary support, cutting across party lines, KCR was lauded for the honour and respect he gave to migrant workers.

During the four phases of lockdown, several State governments have had a tough time in handling the migrant issue. Starting from Delhi’s exodus to Uttar Pradesh’s bus politics, lakhs of migrant workers were exposed to zero physical distancing, attracting major risk at turning positive for Covid, dehydration due to the long walking taken up by migrants and hunger as they had no money to eat. While State governments were chalking out strategies, Government of India added fuel to the trouble with their confusing statements and acts ending up into a fiasco.

Several State governments requested trains for migrants to return back to their home town. The Centre on May 2 released the circular bearing No: DTP/2020/OS/17 with the subject “Movement of standard persons by Shramik Special Trains”. In the circular point number 11 stressed upon the sale of tickets that the total amount of ticket fare collected by the State government from the migrants is handed over to the Railways.

After sharp criticism, on May 4, Government of India (GoI) stated that 85 per cent of the fare would be subsidised and 15 per cent was to be borne by the passengers. But on May 5, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing GoI in Supreme Court when asked by Judge over the train fare, said that he could not comment on the fare charge to the migrant workers as it is the State governments and Railways which would be taking care of it.

On May 5, South Central Railway issued a press release that Shramik Special Trains are being run ONLY (in capital and bold) on request of State government. The press release highlighted in 2nd point with bold characters stating the Railways is only accepting passengers brought and facilitated by State governments.

While the first special train with 1225 passengers was on May 1 to Jharkhand from Telangana, the State government without any hesitation announced to bear the expenses and not collect any charge from the migrants. Several BJP ruled States were exposed of inhumanity with the Model State Gujarat charging sum of Rs 700 as train fare from the migrants. Karnataka Government led by BJP is adamant and continues to face a legal battle in the High Court over ticket fare.

Both the national parties, Congress and BJP, left no stone unturned over politics over the migrants. While the tussle between Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra over the bus turned a murky political affair, Rajasthan government sending a bill of Rs 36 lakh to Uttar Pradesh Government for ferrying migrant students stuck in Kota to UP was absolutely inhumane and displayed the face of Congress which is just the other side of coin, like BJP.

Congress government of Rajasthan backtracked the statement of their own All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi of the party paying to migrants travelling to their hometown all over India was made nothing but a mere jumla.

During this pandemic if someone has performed as a statesman with his decisions, showing a generous heart without indulging in petty politics the credit only goes to KCR. Telangana is equally affected with the economic slowdown of the nation and the Centre has been ignoring Telangana of its rightful shares in funds, projects and several other benefits.

The Centre failed in expected monetary assistance either in battling Covid or relief measures after States have faced the effect of two month lockdown which is still in implementation. Nevertheless not being shaken by the economic crisis but being concerned on human grounds, Telangana government paid Rs 6 crore to Railways for the travel fare of migrant workers. No wonder, when across the nation migrants were leaving their workplaces to their hometowns, 225 Biharis returned back to Telangana to work at the rice mills. Such is the confidence for people in Telangana, its government and more particularly the hope on beloved Chief Minister.

(Author is TRS Leader and Research scholar in OU)

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