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Train fares for regional migrants in India spark political furore

Train fares for regional migrants in India spark political furore

DPA
New Delhi
India’s opposition on Monday slammed the government for not giving stranded regional migrants free train rides home during the coronavirus pandemic, sparking a political row even as the ruling party denied the allegations.
India has so far had 42,836 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus: 11,761 patients have recovered, while 1,389 have died.Hundreds of thousands of daily-wage earners are stranded in cities with no means of income after India went into lockdown on March 25 to check the spread of coronavirus.  
The main opposition party, Indian National Congress, offered to pay the fares, with tickets priced at around 700 rupees (9.25 dollars).
Party president Sonia Gandhi questioned why migrants were asked to pay fares when the government had made arrangements to fly back free of cost citizens stranded in other countries.
She said it was “disturbing” to see how workers and labourers, who were the backbone of Indian economy, were being treated by the government.
Soon after, Congress-ruled states Mahrashtra and Chhattisgarh said they would pay the fare for migrants who were using special trains.
Sambit Patra, spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, refuted the allegations, saying that tickets were not being sold. The government was subsidizing 85 per cent of the train journey and it was up to states to bear the remaining cost of the ticket, he said.
The government was already bearing the cost of running trains half-empty to ensure social-distancing, official sources told broadcaster NDTV.
India began running special trains from Friday so that migrants could travel to their home states, as the lockdown was extended by two weeks.
On Monday, workers clashed with police and threw stones in the city of Surat city as they demanded to be sent home, broadcaster NDTV reported. Police fired tear-gas shells to disperse the crowds.

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