Lucknow: The controversy over the Uttar Pradesh government turning down the Congress’ offer of 1,000 buses from Rajasthan to ferry stranded migrant workers has barely died down, and now there’s a fresh row between the two states.
The BJP government in UP Friday accused the Congress and its government in Rajasthan of double standards, saying the latter had sent repeated reminders to clear a bill worth Rs 36 lakh for ferrying students stranded in the education hub of Kota, which was paid off Thursday. However, Rajasthan Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation had asked for the bill, and the BJP government was now politicising the issue.
Earlier this week, the Congress had offered to send 1,000 buses from Rajasthan to Uttar Pradesh to help ferry migrants, but the UP government rejected the offer, saying that the buses lacked proper documents, and that many vehicle registration numbers in the list were not even buses but vehicles like autorickshaws and trucks.
What was the bill for?
Last month, the UP government brought back thousands of students stranded in Kota due to the lockdown, sending UPSRTC buses.
However, UPSRTC managing director Raj Shekhar said Friday that the number of students was more than what they had expected, so they sought additional buses from the Rajasthan government, which brought the students to Agra and Mathura.
UP Deputy CM Dinesh Sharma said UP had sent 560 buses, but realised later that more children wanted to come back, and the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation provided the buses after getting a written undertaking that they will be paid by UP.
Sharma said the UP government on 5 May cleared a bill for Rs 19.76 lakh, related to Rajasthan’s expenses on diesel for the buses. But it received another reminder for the money for the 94 buses.
Sharma slammed the Congress for being “insensitive” by sending repeated reminders for money while also talking about helping migrants return home. He said it was “shameful” to send a bill to bring home children.
“This is their sensitivity. They are sending reminder after reminder to realise the bill for bringing innocent children, and at the same time, saying that they are providing buses from Rajasthan for UP migrants,” the deputy CM said, adding that such “double standards” are unbecoming of the national party.
He also alleged that the Congress had not arranged fuel for the buses it offered for the migrants, or food for the drivers, who ended up protesting for it.
“Should we have let our migrants take the risk of travelling like this? When there was no food for the drivers, how would it have been arranged for the migrants?” Sharma asked.
“The Congress needs to introspect and apologise to the nation and the migrants publicly for its act. Doing politics by raking up new issues reflects narrow mindedness,” he added.
Sharma claimed he had come to know through news channels that thousands of migrant workers were roaming hungry on roads in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Punjab, and that there is chaos in Maharashtra, where the Congress is part of a ruling alliance with the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party.
Criticising the governments in those states, the deputy CM said they are not worried about the workers in their own states, but offering help to Uttar Pradesh where “27,000 buses and 1,000 trains have already brought home lakhs of migrants”.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also criticised the Rajasthan government for “disgusting politics” between neighbouring states, calling the fare it had charged “arbitrary”, and also pointed to the offer of buses made by the Congress.
Rajasthan condemns UP govt
Responding to Sharma’s allegations, Rajasthan Transport Minister Khachariyawas also addressed a press conference Friday and made the UPSRTC’s letter asking for the bill public.
He said the Rajasthan government had allowed the students stranded in Kota to go back home after receiving a request from the UP government, and that the UPSRTC managing director had requested to provide diesel for those buses.
“This is now being politicised by the government of UP. Officials from both the states had deliberations regarding this,” Khachariyawas said.
On the Congress’ offer of 1,000 buses, the Rajasthan minister said while the UP government claims there were only 859 buses in the list of 1,051 vehicles submitted by the Congress, the Rajasthan transport department has found that 1,032 vehicles were “valid” buses. “This raises serious questions about the intent of the Yogi government,” he said.
The transport ministers words were echoed by Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, who said: “We took an initiative to extend a helping hand in times of grave crisis. No one gets belittled by accepting help under such a dire situation. The entire nation has witnessed this rigid attitude of the UP government and we fully condemn it.”
(With inputs from PTI)