Amid reports of a mass exodus of migrant workers to their villages due to the lockdown in the country over COVID-19, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi held the government responsible for their “terrible” condition.
“This condition of citizens is a huge crime. Today, in the hour of crisis, our brothers and sisters should at least get respect and support. The government should take concrete steps as soon as possible so that it does not become a major tragedy,” he tweeted.
His tweet featured photographs of what appear to be hundreds of migrant workers packed closely together, barricaded by police.
"Today, hundreds of our starved brothers and sisters, along with their families, are forced to head to homes in their villages on foot. Help them if you can by offering them food, shelter as they undertake an arduous journey." he wrote in another tweet.
“I particularly appeal for help from Congress workers and leaders. Jai Hind,” he added.
‘Tragic Situation’: Priyanka Gandhi
In a video message, Priyanka Gandhi also made a similar appeal to the government. She said she was pained to see the migrant workers walk for many kilometres. “A tragic situation is unfolding on the border of Delhi, with thousands of people leaving for their homes on foot with no means, no food,” she tweeted.
“They are poor people and is it not our duty to help them?" Priyanka asked.
“When so many people were stranded abroad, we sent aircraft to get them back. Everyone wants to stay with their families during such times of crisis. We must help them and I urge the government to help them. All political parties must unite in helping such people in distress. UP Congress has formed a highway task force to help such people,” she said in her video message.
"Corona's terror, unemployment and fear of hunger are pushing their feet home towards their villages. I pray to the government, please help them," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
‘Lockdown Having Detrimental Effect on Migrants’
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help the migrant workers reach their homes, according to PTI.
In a letter to Modi, Gandhi said lakhs of migrant workers are being forced to walk hundreds of miles as there is no public transport available.
“Several others are struck in guest houses or hotels and have run out of money to pay. This lockdown is beginning to have a detrimental effect on such fellow citizens,” she said.
"It is my earnest appeal that a national advisory be issued to assist those who are trapped in transit. I am taking the liberty to suggest two such measures - one time state transport services be made available to those who are walking to their home towns or villages and district collectors to extend all possible assistance to those who can no longer afford to stay in lodges or guest houses," Gandhi said.
The Congress chief said citizens are making tremendous efforts for a better tomorrow, “therefore we must make all efforts to ensure that the purpose of the lockdown is not defeated by making the most vulnerable bear its cost.”
‘Abrupt Lockdown Led to Exodus of Migrant Workers’
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury criticised the Centre on Friday, saying it announced the nationwide lockdown "abruptly" that has led to an exodus of migrant workers to their home states and now it cannot "deflect" its responsibilities to the states, according to PTI.
Yechury’s comments came after the Centre asked state governments to take steps to prevent a mass exodus of migrant workers in the wake of the national lockdown on Friday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to some of the chief ministers and asked them to look into the issue of the mass exodus.
The advisory to all the states and Union territories said they should also make arrangements for uninterrupted supply of essential commodities to hotels, working women hostels so that they continue to live in existing facilities.
"The Centre has obviously not thought through the lockdown, which has been announced abruptly. The biggest uprooting of lives of India's most marginalised must be prevented by the Centre. Transport them to safety, cannot simply deflect responsibility to states," Yechury said.
"Lakhs are already on the roads having left their worklplace. Centre must establish camps with assured food supplies of food and other needs. Or, arrange transportation to their homes. Unless done we cannot contain community spread of COVID-19," Yechury added.
(With inputs from PTI.)
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