Bihar Water Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha has hit out at the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi after it claimed reimbursement over train fares paid for the return of migrants stranded in the national capital amid the coronavirus lockdown.
“I saw a tweet by a Delhi minister saying they are paying for tickets of 1,200 migrants who are travelling from Delhi to Muzaffarpur (but) I have a letter here sent by their government asking for the reimbursement of money from the Bihar government,” Mr Jha said.
“On the one hand you are taking credit, saying you are sending them back with your own money. And, on the other hand, you are asking Bihar government to return the money,” he added.
In tweets posted Friday night, Mr Jha released a copy of that letter, which said Delhi would conduct bulk purchase of tickets and “… you (Bihar) are requested not to reimburse passengers but… reimburse… government of Delhi”.
The letter referred to a “shramik (worker)” train service from Delhi to Bihar.
Mr Jha also attached a screenshot of a tweet by Delhi Minister Gopal Rai that said: “Train departing from Delhi to Muzaffarpur with workers. Fare for all 1,200 on board paid by Arvind Kejriwal government”.
“The problem with lies is you forget what you have said. See, your minister Gopal Rai is lying on Twitter that your government will pay the fare, then (you) send a letter asking for money from us,” he tweeted.
Mr Jha also said the Bihar government had made it clear migrants who paid for their train tickets would be reimbursed directly with a minimum of Rs 1,000.
The controversy also drew comment from Union Minister Gririaj Singh, who has previously been fiercely critical of Bihar Chief Miniser Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United)’s tenuous alliance with the BJP.
It also prompted RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav to remind Nitish Kumar “we are a welfare state” and offer to reimburse the amount.
Mr Yadav tweeted: ” Dear Nitish Kumarji, stop acting like a private company. We are a welfare state and it is our responsibility to look after people. As per MHA directive, send us list of passengers so we can directly pay to sending state. Our party is committed to serving the poor”.
Earlier this week a senior Health Ministry official said that 85 per cent of the tickets costs for migrants will be borne by the Railways, with the remainder to be paid by the respective state governments.
“We never asked states to charge money from the stranded labourers,” Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal told reporters.