Coronavirus lockdown | U.P. government locks horns with Congress over buses for migrant workers

Congress trying to politicise the situation, says spokesperson; U.P govt is inhuman, says Congress

Updated - May 20, 2020 02:05 am IST

Published - May 19, 2020 03:05 pm IST - LUCKNOW

A policeman stands guard as migrant workers and their family members queue up for medical screening in New Delhi on May 18, 2020.

A policeman stands guard as migrant workers and their family members queue up for medical screening in New Delhi on May 18, 2020.

The Congress and the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday continued to spar over the issue of providing buses for stranded migrant workers and exchanged a volley of claims and allegations.

Also read: Congress should work with Centre to send more migrants home, says Nirmala Sitharaman

After the Congress claimed on Monday it had sent the State government a list of 1,000 buses along with the driver details , the U.P. government accused the party of including details of three-wheelers, ambulances and goods carriers in the list.

Sidharth Nath Singh, U.P. government spokesperson, accused the Congress of trying to politicise the situation of the migrant workers for photo-ops.

“They have no sensitivity or sense of service towards the migrant workers,” he told journalists.

The U.P. Congress, however, has said the list was authentic and accused a few BJP leaders and a TV channel of spreading fake news.

This came minutes after the State government agreed to receive 1,000 buses from the Congress in Noida and Ghaziabad for ferrying stranded migrant workers to their hometowns.

The U.P. government asked the Congress to deliver 500 buses to District Magistrates of Ghaziabad and Noida by noon. The buses received would be put to use, U.P. additional chief secretary home department Awanish Awasthi assured Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s personal secretary Sandeep Singh in a communication.

Also read: Will migrant workers benefit from the Centre’s measures?

The respective DMs have been instructed to immediately use the buses after checking the permit, fitness certificate, insurance documents, and licence of the driver and documents of the conductor, Mr. Awasthi said.

However, the Congress soon alleged that the Agra administration was not allowing 500 buses parked on the U.P.-Rajasthan border to enter the State despite orders by U.P. Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department.

“The Agra administration is saying they have not received any order to permit the buses [to enter UP],” said Rohit Chaudhary, national secretary, AICC.

The buses started arriving at the Uncha Nagla point.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | 25 migrant workers die in Uttar Pradesh road accident

Ms. Vadra’s personal secretary also wrote to the U.P. government seeking time till 5 p.m. to deliver the buses to Ghaziabad and Noida. The buses were from Rajasthan and Delhi and it would take a few hours to get permits, Ms. Vadra’s secretary informed the U.P. government.

The Congress has also asked the State government to prepare the list of passengers and route map by 5 p.m.

On Monday evening, Ms. Vadra’s personal secretary wrote to Mr. Awasthi informing him that the party was ready to run the buses from Tuesday and also that it had attached a list of bus drivers through an email.

Late-night twist

However, in a late-night twist to the episode, the State government asked Ms. Vadra to submit additional details, fitness certificates and driving licences of the bus drivers along with the full details of the bus conductors to the District Magistrate of Lucknow by 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The buses would also have to be delivered to the DM.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown | Weary migrant workers lug crashed hopes en route their homes

In response, the Congress accused the government of being “inhuman” and displaying anti-poor mentality, while also wasting resources by asking the party to send empty buses all the way to Lucknow instead of letting them ferry the workers from Noida and Ghaziabad.

“Pardon me, sir, but your government’s demand appears totally politically motivated,” Ms. Vadra’s secretary Sandeep Singh wrote to Mr. Awasthi early on Tuesday.

The controversy took off on Monday when, after a studied delay, the U.P. government accepted Ms. Vadra’s offer of 1,000 buses but sought the names and other details of the drivers and conductors.

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