By SM.19 May, 2020
NEW DELHI: A back-and-forth over buses for migrants has escalated into a full-blown political fight between the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, who had offered to run 1,000 buses to take stranded workers home. The UP government has now accused the Congress leader of "fraud" by sending a list of buses in which most registration numbers belong to autos, two-wheelers and goods carriers. The Congress had been asked to send details of the buses and drivers to the UP government.
The UP government yesterday agreed to Priyanka Gandhi"s request in a video posted on Twitter, to allow the Congress to run 1,000 buses for migrants. In a letter, the government asked the Congress leader"s office to send details of the buses.
The catch came late at night when, a top UP government official wrote to Priyanka Gandhi asking that the buses be handed over at state capital Lucknow today.
The Congress"s response followed promptly, at 2.10 AM. Sandeep Singh, Priyanka Gandhi"s private secretary, wrote back calling the move "totally influenced by politics" and questioned why buses should travel empty from the state"s borders, where they are right now, all the way to Lucknow.
Hours later, the UP government wrote another letter to the Congress leader, this time amending its earlier instructions and asking for 500 buses each to be sent to Noida and Ghaziabad that border Delhi.
The UP government also asked the district magistrates to use the buses at the earliest after checking the documents. Yet, the row did not end there.
Priyanka Gandhi"s office wrote again to UP, saying the buses could be sent only by 5 PM as permits would take more time. "This will be a historic step, in which the UP government and the Congress, setting political differences aside, will collaborate for a humane cause," said the letter.
Collaboration tossed aside, the UP government has now alleged that the Congress list of buses includes the registration numbers of two-wheelers and autos. "We have done a preliminary inquiry and it has come to surface that out of the buses for which they sent details, many are turning out to be two-wheelers, autos and goods carriers. It"s unfortunate, Sonia Gandhi should answer why they are committing this fraud," said Uttar Pradesh minister Siddharth Nath Singh.
The charge was rubbished by UP Congress chief Ajay Lallu. "This government is trying to mislead people, it is deliberately fudging numbers and putting out fake numbers," Lallu said.
At the heart of this political wrangling are migrants stranded by the coronavirus lockdown, left jobless in various cities and desperate to go home.
Priyanka Gandhi had posted her appeal to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Twitter after a string of accidents involving migrant workers in the state, including one on Saturday in the state"s Auraiya district, where 26 workers died in a truck accident. The UP government had said no worker would be allowed to walk, cycle or take trucks to get home. This led to a pile-up pf workers at the state"s border.