UP govt, Congress spar over relief buses for migrants

State minister Sidharth Nath Singh accuses Congress of providing a ‘fake’ list of buses, saying it has registration numbers of three-wheelers, two-wheelers and even goods carriers; UP party in-charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra denies charges.

State minister Sidharth Nath Singh
State minister Sidharth Nath Singh

The controversy surrounding the buses for Uttar Pradesh’s migrant labourers took a new turn on Tuesday as the state government blamed the Congress for providing the vehicle list without proper documentation, with some of them having no official record at all. The UP government said that Congress office-bearers had provided a list of 279 buses without proper fitness certificates and insurance.

Seventy of them did not even had any record in the transport department, it said, adding: Out of the list of over 1,000 buses, when documents were looked into, 31 belonged to autos and ambulances. This blame game intensified when state cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh accused the Congress of providing a “fake” list of buses. Singh claimed that preliminary inquiry into the Congress list had revealed that the list carried registration numbers of three-wheelers, two-wheelers, and goods carriers.

He also backed up his claims with certain documents which raised suspicion on the Congress party’s genuine intention to help the needy. During the course of the day, both sides exchanged several communications over the issue. It all started with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s call to voluntarily provide buses for the transportation of the stranded migrant labourers earlier this week. The state government on Monday asked that all the buses should report in Lucknow by 10 am on Tuesday.

While slamming the Congress on Monday, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said that he had been asking for the list of buses, but the same was not given to him for the past four days. Following which Congress’s Sandeep Singh wrote back to UP’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Avnish Awasthi, saying, “We received your letter via email late night at 11:40 pm asking us to handover 1,000 buses along with required documents in Lucknow at 10 am.”

“Migrant workers are stranded at Uttar Pradesh border, especially DelhiUP border. At a time when thousands of them are walking on roads and have gathered at Uttar Pradesh border for registration, sending 1,000 empty buses to Lucknow is not only a waste of time and resources but also inhumane.” On Tuesday the UP government asked the Congress to provide the buses to the district magistrate offices of Noida and Ghaziabad by 12 noon on the same day.

“Please refer to your letter dated May 18, 2020. As per your letter, you have shown your inability to provide buses at Lucknow and want to provide buses at the Noida and Ghaziabad border. Under such a situation, please provide 500 buses to the district magistrate, Ghaziabad, at Kaushambi and Sahibabad bus stops by 12 pm. In addition, provide 500 buses to the district magistrate, Gautam Buddh Nagar, at Expomart,” wrote Awasthi in his letter to Sandip Singh on Tuesday morning.

The Congress’ response came within half-an-hour and reiterating its commitment to provide 1,000 buses, Sandip Singh wrote back saying: “Some of our buses are coming from Rajasthan while some are coming from Delhi. The process of getting permits is underway. As the number of buses is high, it may take some hours. As asked by you, we will make efforts to take them to the Ghaziabad/Noida border by 5 pm.” Soon the issue escalated into a war of word between two national parties. Congress’s Randeep Surjewala accused the BJP and UP CM Yogi Adityanath of indulging in “cheap politics” by not allowing its buses to transport migrants stranded at the borders.

On the other hand, UP’s Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma said that the Congress was determined to mislead. “The Congress should pay attention to Maharashtra and Rajasthan where the condition of migrant workers is even worse. Those workers are not getting food. In the 50-odd years that it ruled the country, the Congress has only ensured unemployment,” he said.

The Congress general secretary and in-charge of UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, tweeted in the evening and claimed that the “Uttar Pradesh government has itself said that of the 1,049 buses offered by us, 879 have been found proper in the verification. At Uncha Nagala border our 500 buses have been made to wait by the administration for several hours. Similarly, on Delgi border 300 buses are also coming. Please allow 879 buses to ply.” “Tomorrow we will provide the list of 200 more buses for the service. Get the list of those buses also verified. People are in trouble and sad. We cannot delay any further,” she added.