Chandigarh, May 17 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday took strong exception to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's reported criticism of the Congress party's humanitarian efforts to help the distressed migrants.
Singh blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments at centre and in states for aggravating the migrant crisis and politicising such a grave issue, said an official statement here.
The entire Congress party, including all party-led states, were working day and night to support the migrant labourers in this hour of crisis, with my own government having already arranged 149 trains to ferry 1,78,909 migrants to their native states till May 16, said the chief minister in a statement here.
The process of facilitating the labourers to go to their homes was still continuing in Punjab, he said.
Reacting to Sitharaman's “uncalled for” comment that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi should have asked her chief ministers to help the migrants, Singh said the party president had been holding regular interactions with chief ministers of Congress-rules states on all critical issues related to COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown.
Singh also flayed Sitharaman for suggesting that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should have walked with the migrants when he met them, and termed the comment as “highly frivolous and totally unbecoming” of a senior minister.
Instead of ridiculing Rahul Gandhi, who came out on the roads to extend support and compassion to the migrants, Sitharaman should have spoken to the chief minister of the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government to allow entry of buses arranged by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to transport migrants, he said, referring to the buses stranded at the Delhi-UP border on account of the UP administration's refusal to let them enter.
Dismissing Sitharaman's remarks which according to him were in “bad taste and clearly politically motivated” and did not behove the Union finance minister’s office, Singh said every Congress chief minister, leader and worker was engaged in ensuring that migrants receive every possible succour in this hour of crisis, when they have been left by the central government to fend for themselves.
On the directions of Sonia Gandhi, the entire Congress machinery, right from the top leadership, was doing everything possible to help the migrants, lakhs of whom were risking their lives in trying to get home, said Singh.
He reminded Sitharaman that it was only after Sonia Gandhi’s directive asking Congress party units in all states to pay for the migrants' train tickets that the central government announced its decision to finance 85 per cent of the cost, with 15 per cent to be done by the states.
On the directives of the party chief, Congress offices at many places had been turned into kitchens to provide food to migrants and poor, while party MLAs were personally looking into their transportation, said Singh further.
His own government, said the CM, had been taking care of the migrants from the day of the imposition of the national lockdown in March, ensuring that they were provided food and shelter, and even wages or fiscal aid in many cases.
This was the reason why the migrants did not even try to leave Punjab all these weeks till they finally got the opportunity to meet their families – a natural development in any crisis, he said.
Unlike many BJP-run states, none of the Congress chief ministers had tried to stop any migrant from coming or leaving, he said, adding that he had personally ensured that not even a single migrant labourer in Punjab goes to bed hungry. Instead of attacking those who were genuinely trying to help the migrants and the poor, centre should, in these devastating times, take everyone along, irrespective of their political affiliation, to provide the much-needed support to the people of the country, said Singh. PTI CHS VSD RHL