Rajesh Verma (right) allegedly attacked a migrant labourer from Jharkhand.

Ahmedabad:

A man in Gujarat’s Surat has been accused of brutally thrashing a migrant worker after charging him and others three times the regular price for train tickets to return home amid the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. The ruling BJP has denied that the attacker was a member of the party.

Rajesh Verma, who describes himself as a BJP worker on his Facebook profile and is seen with leaders of the party in photos, had taken more than Rs 1 lakh from a group of migrant workers from Jharkhand for the train tickets, the workers have said.

After one of the workers, Vasudev Verma, went to ask about the status of the tickets, he said Rajesh Verma and his associates beat with him wooden planks.

“I went to get the tickets. Had given him Rs 1.16 lakh. He said, ‘Won’t give your money back. You can do what you want’. He is selling the tickets for Rs 2,000. When I went to protest, Rajesh Verma beat me with planks and stones. My body is completely sore,” a bleeding Vasudev Verma is heard saying in a video shared by a Congress leader on Twitter.

The chief of the ruling BJP in Surat has denied that Rajesh Verma was a member of the party and had been given the responsibility of arranging tickets for the migrant workers as a “social leader”.

A M Parmar, a senior police officer in Surat, said they have registered a case against Rajesh Verma.

“Rajesh Verma, who takes bookings for registration of migrant workers from Jharkhand who want to return home beat up Vasudev Verma who had gone to his office to enquire about his ticket. An FIR has been registered against Rajesh Verma at the Limbayat Police Station,” he said.

Lakhs of migrant workers across the country were left stranded without food, shelter or income after the central government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24 to contain the spread of COVID-19 with four hours’ notice. Many of them tried returning home walking for days on the highways.

Last week, when the government finally said it would arrange special trains for them, the opposition severely criticised plans to charge migrant labourers, who have been out of work for weeks, for the tickets. Government sources later said it would pay for 85 per cent of the cost and states would have to cover the rest.

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