Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday said the list of 1,000 buses offered by the Congress to ferry migrant workers contained registration numbers of two-wheelers and cars, fuelling a war of words between the two sides.
The Congress, however, rejected the claim, challenging Yogi Adityanath's government to conduct a “physical verification” of the buses. According to the Congress, the buses are massed at the Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh border, awaiting permission to cross over into the state's Agra district.
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya accused the party of coming up with another scam. "The Congress has got trapped in its own net of deceit,” he tweeted in Hindi.
The row erupted on 16 May when Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra offered to provide 1,000 buses for migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh, stranded in other states because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Congress initially claimed that the state's BJP government was ignoring the offer with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath refusing even to give an appointment to a party delegation.
Even while accusing the Congress of playing politics over the plight of migrant workers, 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.
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.
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 UP's 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 then responded to the Congress letter, agreeing to take charge of the buses at the Delhi-UP border itself.
He suggested that 500 buses should be stationed at the Kaushambi and Sahibabad bus stands in Ghaziabad, just across the border from Delhi. The remaining 500 should be sent to Noida.
Awasthi said directions have been issued to the Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar district magistrates to make use of the buses immediately after checking the permits, fitness, insurance and driving licences of the crew.
But the row reignited hours later when the UP government said the Congress list of 1,000 buses contained registration number of other vehicles.
"In the list of buses provided by the Congress, there are motorcycles, three-wheelers, an ambulance and private cars,” said Mrityunjay Kumar, media advisor to the chief minister. 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 instant access to such information.
UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh challenged the claim. "There are 1,000 buses. If the UP Government has any doubts about them, they can conduct a physical verification of the vehicles at the state's border," he said.
In another letter in the afternoon, Priyanka Gandhi's private secretary said the buses cannot be brought to Noida and Ghaziabad as the government has not given permission for them to enter Uttar Pradesh from Rajasthan.
"We are stationed at the UP border near Uncha Nagla for the past three hours but Agra administration is not allowing us to enter,” Vadra's aide Sandeep Singh wrote. “We request you once again to display sensitivity. Please send the letter of permission for all our buses, so that we can move forward," he wrote at 3.45 pm.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya called the episode another Congress “scam”. "The ‘bus ghotaala' (bus scam) now is the latest addition to the Bofors, 2G, Coalgate and Commonwealth Games,”he tweeted in Hindi.
“The Congress is making fun of labourers by providing details of autorickshaws and motorcycles in the name of buses. Misleading people by telling lies is in the DNA of the Congress party," he said.
Another deputy chief minister, Dinesh Sharma, accused the Congress of using migrant workers as “pawns”. He asked why the Congress couldn't send the buses through the government in Rajasthan, where it is in power. "The Congress is trying to malign the image of the UP government, and it must rectify its behavior,” he said.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said the people are wondering why the buses are not being used by the state government to send stranded workers homes. “What type of stubbornness is this?" he tweeted.
Updated Date: May 19, 2020 20:23:09 IST