Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has finally yielded to the mounting pressure being exerted by the Opposition on the issue of reimbursement of fares to the lakhs of labourers who have started coming back to the state in special trains. In a statement made by the Bihar Chief minister himself, Nitish Kumar emphasised that each worker returning home by train would be reimbursed the full ticket fare and an additional aid of Rs 500 after they have served quarantine of 21 days. “We took the decision to ensure free journey back home for our students and now, a similar facility is being extended to migrant labourers too,” the CM said. He added that all arrangements have been put in place at the quarantine centres which have been set up at block levels and all person returning from outside the state will have to stay there for 21 days.
Sushil Modi also tweeted that fares were not charged from students returning from Kota and the labourers who had to pay for train fare would be reimbursed the money in full. This comes subsequent to the rancorous attack by the Opposition led by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who had gone to the extent of offering fares for 50 trains to bring back the stranded labourers free of cost. He said, “We will directly pay through cheque for the fares of 50 trains. The state government should immediately arrange for the trains and bring back those stranded outside the state.” Even earlier when the state government had expressed its helplessness in providing buses to bring back the stranded people, Tejashwi Yadav had come forward and offered 2,000 buses to the state government. Subsequently, the state government appealed to the Centre for providing special trains to bring back the over 27 lakh people, most of them being labourers, as the state government did not have the desired resources.
The Centre conceded to the state’s demand, but there was no word from the Nitish Kumar government on waiving off the fares for labourers. The silence on the issue gave the Opposition the desired ammunition to nail down the CM, accusing him of being callous to the plight of the stranded labourers. Tejashwi Yadav even asked that while the state government was ready to bear a loss of Rs 24,000 crore by enforcing prohibition, another Rs 24,500 on the ambitious project of Nitish Kumar, Jal Jeevan Hariyali, and a whopping Rs 500 crore on advertisements, how can the government not be in a position to pay Rs 500 to each worker coming back to the state. The state government was already facing severe criticism when other states led by Uttar Pradesh chose to bring back their stranded students from Kota, while Nitish Kumar looked the other way citing lockdown rules.