BJP parliamentarian has written to home minister Amit Shah requesting the Rs 1,000 crore allocated for migrant workers from the PM-CARES Fund be spent on their transport, appearing to hint that the images of labourers walking hundreds of kilometres could hurt the party politically.
“Ye sab hamare hi log hain (These are our own people),” Rajya Sabha member Om Prakash Mathur has written.
Mathur, a senior politician from Rajasthan, wrote that the migrants’ suffering had become a “matter of intense discussion”, which BJP sources said was a hint that it could have an adverse political impact.
“You must be aware that for the past several days, we have been watching on TV and reading in newspapers that migrant workers are walking hundreds of kilometres from one state to another,” the MP wrote in the second half of his letter.
“So, I appeal to you that if the Rs 1,000 crore allotted from the PM-CARES Fund for the welfare of migrants can be used to arrange transport for them to enable them to reach home safe and secure, it would be good.”
The PM-CARES Fund Trust had recently announced Rs 1,000 crore for the states as a “lump-sum assistance” towards helping the migrants with accommodation, food, medicine and transport.
Mathur wrote that the Centre should directly use the money to arrange transport for the migrants, without involving the states.
Reports that the unemployed and impoverished migrants are having to pay for their railway journey home have led to an outcry. The Opposition and many others have questioned why the hundreds of crores the PM-CARES Fund has received in donations should not be used to fund the migrants’ travel.
However, the Centre claims the railways are sponsoring 85 per cent of the travel cost, leaving the remaining 15 per cent for the states to shoulder. If any migrant has had to pay anything, it says, it can only be because their state isn’t shouldering its burden.
Mathur, the first half of whose letter is devoted to extolling the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and its “unprecedented” economic relief package, has tried not to blame the Centre for the migrants’ plight.
He too has targeted the states, saying the migrants shouldn’t suffer because of “rajyayon ke apas ke nitigat virodh (ideological differences between the states)”.
“The Centre has done so much in this crisis but the ideological differences between states are causing the migrants a lot of hardship,” his letter says.
BJP sources, however, said Mathur was indicating what their internal feedback too suggested: that the migrants’ plight could cost the party if the government failed to quickly provide succor to them.