New Delhi, Jun 3 (PTI) The Congress on Wednesday accused the government of under-reporting deaths on Shramik Specials and distorting facts about payments for travel on these trains, demanding that Railway Minister Piyush Goyal either resign or be sacked.
The Railways has maintained that 85 per cent of the expense for travel on Shramik trains was borne by the Centre and the states were paying the rest in the form of fares.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the government has not given the exact number of deaths on Shramik trains but it has been reported that at least 81 people have died and there are allegations about more deaths happening on the trains.
He claimed the Centre has not spent a penny on running special trains for migrant workers as, he added, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has told the Supreme Court that state governments receiving or sending migrant workers 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... The figure of 81 deaths is suspect and that figure is much higher,' Singhvi alleged.
'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.
He said the entire country is asking the question why the railway minister has not resigned or has not been removed.
'The government is not answering this question, because they don't believe that human dignity is based on freedom and freedom is based on human dignity. They really believe that without our labourers India can prosper,' he said.
The Modi government 'did not spend a single penny' on the travel of migrant workers, he said, adding that Railway Minister Goyal, Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders had been claiming that the Centre was bearing 85 per cent of the cost of travel.
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 given free, the Congress leader alleged.
'Which government fails to provide food and water to people and then lies about it,' he asked.
Singhvi said, 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 per cent or some 373 Shramik Specials were late by 10-24 hours, he claimed, adding that 78 trains were delayed by a day or more and 43 trains by 30 hours; 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.
Singhvi said Home Minister 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 or receiving states.
'While the SC says provide free of cost, here all sorts of charges are being levied on trains. Who is lying? Why this distortion?' Singhvi said.
'If the BJP (leaders) had their hearts in the right place to help migrant workers, such massive failures would not have occurred,' he said. PTI SKC ABH ABH