Karnataka decision to stop Shramik trains shock migrant workers

South India
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The Karnataka government’s decision to stop interstate special trains ferrying migrant workers from the state capital of Benguluru to their home town has evoked strong protests from workers. Labour unions and human rights activists.

The state government applied brake on the movement of the workers from Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states following a meeting Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had with the representatives of the Real Estate Developers Associations on Tuesday, May 5.

According to the New Indian Express, the state government asked the Southern Railways to cancel all scheduled trains after the associations agreed to pay wages to workers for the entire period of lockdown, and ensure all essential facilities, including safety gear, at workplaces.

Justifying the decision, the chief minister said there was no need for workers to rush back to their home towns as the Covid-19 situation in the state was better compared to other states. “We will ensure employment and wages for all workers. Builders have also assured that all facilities, including lodging, food and wages will be given to them,” Yediyurappa he added.  

Quoting sources, the report stated that majority of stranded migrants are construction workers. As per state government data, around 5,000 workers registered through the Seva Sindhu portal, while 9,000 passengers have already been transported via special trains as of Tuesday. “The passengers who were sent on trains were not registered. Several left earlier too,” a senior officer working with the state Covid-19 team told TNIE.

The News Minute reported that most of the workers who wanted to leave the city have been living without pay for the last 40 days and were forced to seek help to feed themselves, from the government, employers or volunteer groups. But with no trains, these workers cannot even escape the deplorable living conditions exacerbated by this lockdown for the comfort of their homes on their own will.

Maitreyi Krishnan, an advocate and member of All India Council of Central Trade Unions in Karnataka said the decision was shocking. “Workers have a right to go home. Article 19 (1) (d) guarantees freedom of movement, this was suspended, how long more? Article 23 prohibits forced labour. What Karnataka government is doing on behalf of the real estate lobby is forced labour,” she was quoted by the News Minute as saying.

Vinay Sreenivasa, Bengaluru-based lawyer and activist, said, “The poor in this country are only meant to serve the rich. It is disgusting to see the government behave like this.”

Image Credit: New Indian Express

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