The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday (May 19) said the list of 1,000 buses offered by the Congress to ferry migrants contained registration numbers of two-wheelers and cars, a charge denied by the party.
The UP claim reignited the row over the offer made on May 16 by Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to provide 1,000 buses at the UP border for migrant workers heading to their homes in the state.
The Congress initially claimed that the state’s BJP government was ignoring the offer with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath even refusing to give an appointment to a party delegation seeking a meeting.
Even while accusing the Congress of playing politics over the plight of workers heading home after the coronavirus lockdown, the UP government on Monday formally accepted the offer. It asked the Congress to submit a list of the buses, and its drivers and conductors.
But that was not the end of the row. In an email received by Priyanka Gandhi’s private secretary at 11.40 pm Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government asked the opposition party to send the buses to Lucknow by 10 am on Tuesday, according to the Congress.
The aide wrote back to the UP government saying that sending empty buses to Lucknow was inhuman and the product of an anti-poor mindset when thousands of workers are gathered at UPs borders.
“This demand of your government seems politically motivated. It does not appear that your government wants to help our labourer brothers and sisters who are facing a disaster,” the letter in Hindi said.
UP’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home & Information) Awanish Awasthi responded to the Congress letter, agreeing to take charge of the buses at the border itself.
“As per your letter dated May 19, you have expressed your inability to provide buses in Lucknow and want to provide them in Ghaziabad and Noida,” he wrote.
He asked 500 of the buses to be stationed at Kaushambi and Sahibabad bus stands, where the Ghaziabad district magistrate will take charge of them.
He said the other 500 buses should be parked at the ground near the Expo Mart in Gautam Buddh Nagar, and handed over to the district magistrate there.
Awasthi said directions have been issued to the district magistrates to make use of the buses immediately after checking the permits, fitness, insurance and driving licences of the crew.
Later, the state government said the list of 1,000 buses contained registration number of other vehicles, reigniting the row over buses.
“In the list of buses provided by the Congress, there are motorcycles, three-wheelers, an ambulance and private cars,” Mrityunjay Kumar, media advisor to the chief minister, said.
He listed out the registration numbers of an ambulance, a car and four three-wheelers. He said the details were retrieved through mParivahan, an app that allows people instant access to such information.
A UP Congress spokesperson challenged the claim. “There are 1,000 buses. If the UP Government has any doubts about them, then they can conduct a physical verification of the vehicles at the states border,” he said.
The opposition Congress’ allegation comes a day after the Uttar Pradesh government accepted its offer to run 1,000 buses to bring migrant labourers back to the state, a proposal which had triggered a war of words between the two sides.
In a letter to Additional Chief Secretary Avneesh Kumar Awasthi, Priyanka Gandhi’s private secretary Sandeep Singh said a letter was received from the Uttar Pradesh official at 11.40 am via email, in which it has been stated that 1,000 buses with all documents be handed over at Lucknow by 10 am on Tuesday.
“In a situation when thousands of workers are walking on the streets and thousands of people have gathered at the UP borders at various registration centres, sending 1,000 empty buses to Lucknow is not only a waste of time and resources but is also inhuman and the product of an anti-poor mindset,” Singh said in the letter in Hindi.
“This demand of your government seems politically motivated. It does not seem that your government wants to help our labourer brothers and sisters who are facing a disaster,” the letter said.
The state government had asked Priyanka Gandhi, who had made the offer, to provide it with a list of buses along with the names of their drivers and conductors. Subsequently, her private secretary Singh had given details of the buses and its drivers to the Uttar Pradesh government in an email.
“All details of the 1,000 buses are attached with this e-mail. Out of them, a few drivers will be re-verified and those details will also be mailed to you in a few hours. I hope you will give permission for those buses to ply as soon as possible,” Singh had said in the communication to the Uttar Pradesh government on Monday.
The Congress leader had recently written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, seeking permission to run 1,000 buses at her party’s expense. The party had then accused the BJP-run government of ignoring the offer.
“The offer made to the chief minister through the letter on May 16 in connection with migrant labourers has been accepted,” Additional Chief Secretary Awasthi (Home and Information) had said in a letter to Priyanka Gandhi’s private secretary.
A little later on Twitter, Priyanka Gandhi, who is the Congress general secretary in charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, had thanked Adityanath. “Thank you for allowing us to run 1,000 buses at the expense of the Congress to help thousands of brothers and sisters walking on the roads in Uttar Pradesh,” she had tweeted in Hindi.
She had said the Congress will stand with these people during the difficult time they face. In a television interview earlier on Monday, Adityanath accused the Congress of playing politics over the plight of migrant workers. Singh in his letter on Tuesday also expressed surprise at the chief minister, saying his government was demanding the details of buses since the last three days and asserted that the details were provided immediately after the letter from the UP government was received in this regard.