Congress' — the country’s main opposition party — General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Sunday urged telecom firms like Reliance Jio, Airtel, BSNL, and Vodafone-Idea to make incoming and outgoing calls free for one month. Gandhi said that thousands of migrant workers are in a distress situation and are trying to reach their hometowns across the country.
"Many of those who are trying to reach home have exhausted their mobile recharges as a result of which they are not able to contact their families", a letter written by Priyanka Gandhi reads, adding that such a step would go a long way towards addressing the fear and uncertainty that these migrants are facing.
The nation has seen an unprecedented exodus of migrant labourers from metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and some other industrial hubs. Despite a $22 billion financial package announced by the Modi government for poor and migrant workers, the exodus is continuing from the cities.
The appeal made by Gandhi comes at a time when telecom firms have been facing debt and they are mulling raising mobile call and Internet rates. There is a debt of around $27 billion that telecom operators owe to Indian banks. However, major relief announced by the Reserve Bank of India earlier this week makes these telecom companies eligible for a three-month moratorium in loan repayments to the banks.
Meanwhile, several measures were announced by the government to pursue migrant workers to follow the countrywide 21-day lockdown, which came into effect on 25 March, including free food grains for three months and no house rent for a month. The Indian Health Ministry confirmed 973 cases of the coronavirus, including 25 deaths, on Sunday evening.