Entire country but central government heard the cries of migrant workers: Sonia Gandhi
The Congress on Thursday stepped up its attack against the Centre on the migrant workers’ deepening crisis triggered due to the mishandling of lockdown restrictions that were imposed from end-March to contain the spread of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Party chief Sonia Gandhi said the entire country, except the Union government, had heard the cries and felt the pain of migrant workers.
In a video message posted as part of the Congress’s nationwide online campaign, she also urged the Centre to unlock its coffers to help those affected by the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
The day-long “Speak Up India” campaign was launched by the opposition party to put pressure on the Centre to accept its demands for providing immediate financial aid to farmers, migrant workers, daily wage earners, and small businesses hit by the pandemic.
The online campaign included messages through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts.
Later, Congress leader Ajay Maken claimed that over 5.7 million party leaders and workers uploaded their messages on social media throughout the day. “The campaign reached out to around 100 million people. It was a massive virtual rally. #SpeakUpIndia was also the top Twitter trend worldwide,” he added.
Gandhi said while the country is passing through a serious economic crisis because of the loss of livelihood of lakhs of people from all walks of life, the central government has not helped those affected the most by the pandemic.
“It’s for the first time since the independence that such a spectre of pain and anguish has been witnessed, where lakhs of famished and thirsty labourers have been forced to walk hundreds of kilometres back home barefoot and without any access to medicines or transport,” the Congress chief said. “Everyone across the country except the government heard their cries of pain and trauma,” she added.
Instead of loans, Gandhi said the government should provide financial aid to small and medium businesses in a bid to save millions of jobs. “Crores of livelihoods have been lost, lakhs of businesses and factories shut and farmers are running from pillar to post to sell their produce,” she said.
Gandhi urged the Centre to unlock its coffers and help the needy by transferring cash of Rs 7,500 per month to every family for the next six months, ensuring safe and free travel of workers back home besides increasing the number of workdays to 200 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which was launched by the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2005.
The Congress had decided to open online fronts against the government because of the strict adherence to social distancing norms due to the pandemic.
In a letter to state unit chiefs, the party general secretary KC Venugopal had asked them to mobilise around five million participants on all social media platforms to register their protest.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi stressed the need to take the voice of the poor, migrant workers, small and medium businesses to the government.
“India doesn’t need debt, India needs money. Due to Covid-19, a storm has come in India and the poor have been hurt the most. Migrant workers have to walk hungry for hundreds of kilometres across the country and the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), which provide jobs to crores of people, are shutting down,” he said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra cited the heart-breaking example of a toddler in Bihar trying to wake her dead mother at a railway station to highlight the plight of migrants.
“We’ve seen the visuals of a son pulling a cart carrying his parents, a daughter taking her father 1,200 km on a bicycle, many people dying in trains, a child dying in the lap of his father and another child trying to wake up his dead mother on a railway platform. These visuals can make anyone cry. The country is pained to see such devastating visuals,” she said.
The visuals of a toddler trying to wake her dead mother on a railway platform went viral on Wednesday. According to railway officials, the woman had a prior ailment.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the Congress for the campaign.
“The Congress can neither rule nor play the role of a constructive opposition. What they did was a drama. The least their party chief could have done was taken a leaf out of BJP president JP Nadda’s book and instructed party workers to feed hungry people and provide whatever help was needed,” BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said.