Karnataka authorities caught between desperate migrant workers and bureaucratic red tape

‘They have to find ways to urge workers to either stay back in State or wait for their turn to leave’

May 14, 2020 11:31 pm | Updated May 15, 2020 10:11 am IST - Bengaluru

Some of the passengers who came by the train from Delhi leaving KSR (Bengaluru) City Railway Station for their quarantine facility on Thursday.

Some of the passengers who came by the train from Delhi leaving KSR (Bengaluru) City Railway Station for their quarantine facility on Thursday.

The State government appears to be caught between a huge number of desperate migrant workers wishing to get back to their families and their home States that are wary of accepting them.

For instance, while thousands of distressed workers are waiting for their turn to board trains, Bihar has asked the State to limit the number of train to one per day. Odisha and West Bengal are insisting on granular details, which would entail time-consuming bureaucratic procedures, before approving the train to leave.

The authorities are now working on ways to placate the migrant workers from leaving the State in distress or persuade them to patiently wait for their turn to get into the train, sources said.

Meeting with unions

In one such exercise on Thursday, Revenue Secretary N. Manjunath Prasad and Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, who met the labour union representatives to understand the ground realities, were told that the labourers had become “restive, agitated, and troubled” because of not getting wages for the past two months and are desperate to return home.

On Tuesday, the High Court of Karnataka also directed the State government to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to explore the possibility of generating money to fund the travel of those labourers who cannot afford to pay for their travel.

So far, 43 Shramik Special trains have been operated from the State, which have carried more than 56,000 migrants back home. The highest number of trains — 13 — has left for Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar at 11, Jharkhand - 5, Rajasthan - 4, West Bengal - 3, and Madhya Pradesh - 2. One each train has been run to Odisha, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand.

Bihar, which is grappling with migrants returning home in big numbers, has allowed one train from Karnataka to be operated daily as it is receiving 53 Shramik Specials every day. However, despite Bengaluru having a large number of migrant workers from Odisha and West Bengal, the two States have been stringent in receiving the migrants back. “The two States have asked for segregation and accommodation of workers in each coach based on the districts. Then the list of passengers have to be sent to them for approval. This is turning out to be a huge inconvenience for authorities here to do this,” sources said.

Registered so far

Currently, as many as 2.5 lakh migrants workers wishing to return to their villages have registered themselves on Seva Sindhu app. The State government’s estimate is that if 12 trains are operated from across the State daily, and if all States provide quick approval for the trains to leave, it may take more than a fortnight to clear the rush. However, currently between two and six trains are running from the State.

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