Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday said that the Centre has not gone wrong on the issue of migrant workers and that part of the responsibility also lies with states from where they belong.
In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, on being questioned where the government went wrong in judging what has now become a humanitarian crisis, Pradhan said, "If I can politely say, the government has done nothing wrong."
"On this kind of crisis, not only due to economic issue, they want to go back home. They want to see their near and dear ones. This is an issue. Because the number is huge. More than 1,000 trains have already ferried the people from different parts of the country," he added.
He went on to congratulate Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and said, "Railway Ministry has provided as many trains as the states are expecting."
He also passed the buck to "certain states" that he did not want to name and said, "they have to be more careful."
"Certain states have to take utmost care and ensure sensitivity. People belong to their states. Responsibility lies with them also. They have to come forward. They have to take responsibility," he added.
Explaining the pattern of migration he said, "You have to understand that a majority of our workers find employment in the western and southern part of the country. While they belong from the eastern part of India. Generally from states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, North-Eastern states, West Bengal, Odisha and parts of Madhya Pradesh."
Talking about the participation of states he said, "It will be unfair to say that this has not been looked into. Lots of buses have ferried people back. States such as Kerala and Gujarat have taken utmost care to send people back to their destination."
He also painted a positive picture when he said, "Learning from the small mistakes, learning from the small issue, all governments are coming together to ferry the people very smoothly. I think we have to see that in that background."
The oil minister also admitted "with full responsibility" that this is not just an economic issue but also, "a social issue. This is psychological issue. We have to handle it with a lot of care."
Among other things he said that oil prices will "bounce back" sometime in the near future.
"People will be not be affected," Pradhan said, adding that the government will have to save some money.
Speaking to News18, Pradhan said the government has not hiked retail prices during the COVID-19 outbreak. On May 5, excise duty on petrol was hiked by Rs 10 per litre on petrol and Rs 13 per litre on diesel, amid a plunge in crude oil prices.
Pradhan added that 70 percent of fuel demand had vanished in April 2020 due to the lockdown, as against April 2019. Demand for petrol in April 2020 was 25 percent, while for diesel it was 30-35 percent.
He added that overproduction and low demand had led to a "low price regime" in crude oil.
"Prior to COVID-19, there was a conflict between petroleum-producing states to capture as much of the global market as possible which led to an over-production," the Union Minister said.