Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Friday said the State government will bear the travel expenses of migrant workers returning home on trains from the State. This facility will be extended to all those travelling on Shramik Special trains till May 31.
The decision comes in the light of widespread opposition to the State government’s decision to charge poor migrant labourers the train fare, despite the Union government announcing that the expenditure would be borne by State governments. A division bench of Karnataka High Court comprising Chief justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice B. V. Nagarthna, hearing a PIL petition in this regard, has also been critical of the government’s stand on the issue.
“The government considers migrant workers, who have come from far flung parts of our country, as our own people and it is my firm belief that they too must be supported by the State,” the Chief minister tweeted on Friday.
However, this is in stark contrast with the stand the State government had taken in the High Court of Karnataka where it had said that it was correct in collecting the prescribed train fare from workers in the event of their home States not depositing advance fares. The State government has been bearing the travel costs of return of migrants to the State from other parts of the country.
The Union government had contended that the Government of Karnataka must pay the rail fare in advance and get it reimbursed from respective state governments.
A senior official said over 2 lakh migrant labourers have left the State on Shramik Special trains from the State till now, all of whom have paid for their tickets in the range of ₹700 - ₹1,200.
This is the second time the State government has done a U-turn on the issue of trains for migrant labourers to return home. Three days after the Union government introduced Shramik Special trains for migrant labourers, the State government cancelled all trains from the State on May 6, with an aim to retain migrant labourers in the State to kickstart the economy, following a meeting with builders by the chief minister.
However, the State government retraced its steps and reintroduced trains on May 8, following outrage over its cancellation. The State government had been maintaining that the destination State has to pay for the travel expenses of the migrant labourers from May 3, a decision it has now rolled back.