Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday (16) interacted with a group of migrant labourers near the Sukhdev Vihar flyover in Delhi and asked them about their problems as they walked home amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Gandhi sat on the pavement and gave the migrant workers a patient hearing and assured them of help in reaching their homes.
Dressed in black pants and white kurta, he talked to the workers and heard their grievances.
Sources close to Gandhi said he had an impromptu hour-long meeting with a group of 20 migrants, including women and children, walking from their work site near Ambala to their village near Jhansi. The meeting took place as they sat on the footpath on Mathura road in the national capital.
Mahesh Kumar, a migrant worker from Madhya Pradesh who along with 14 of his family members was sitting at the footpath, narrated his tale of woe to the former Congress chief.
“It was nice talking to him. At least someone heard us and our problems,” he told reporters later.
The Congress claimed that the police detained some of the labourers later in preventive custody, saying they have “directions from the top to do so”.
Police, however, denied that any migrants were detained.
DCP South East District R P Meena said Rahul Gandhi and some Congressmen interacted with the 15 labourers, including four women and a child. “After spending about 15-20 minutes, he left the place,” he said.
Meena said the others accompanying the Congress leader were asked by SHO NFC to follow social distancing norms and later they took the migrant workers with them.
Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later tweeted thanking Rahul Gandhi and saying that someone has to talk to these migrant labourers and hear their ordeal.
“These are our own people. We will have to sit and talk with them. Their suffering has to be shared. They are nation builders. We cannot leave them alone in this time of crisis. Thank you my leader Rahul Gandhi,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.
Asked at a Congress media briefing about Rahul’s meeting and the police allegedly detaining the workers, Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh said eight crore migrants were interested in returning to their homes and Gandhi was only trying to meet them and hear their grievances.
“They cannot even meet Rahul Gandhi. What is the reason of their detention. They should not even tell Rahul Gandhi that the government has done nothing for them so far,” he told reporters.
A Delhi Congress leader said that Gandhi was passing from Sukhdev Vihar when he spotted the migrant workers stopped by the police. He intervened and talked to the migrant workers and assured them help.
Later, several Congress workers led by Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary reached there and arranged help for the migrant workers.
Chaudhary said that the migrants, including women, children and elderly, were walking from Haryana to their native place in Jhansi, when they were stopped by the police near Modi Mill flyover.
He said that Delhi Congress arranged 8-10 vehicles to carry the migrant workers following the social distancing norms.
The Congress has been highlighting the problem of migrant labourers and workers walking on the roads without food and water. It has been demanding direct cash transfer to them along with free ration and has asked the government to ensure their safe transport back to their homes.
Migrant labourers in large numbers have been seen walking down the roads in the absence of public transport amid the lockdown in their bid to return to their native villages.