Karnataka

Steep ticket price makes migrant workers’ journey home arduous

Construction and migrant workers waiting to board a KSRTC bus after completing formalities at Banappa Park in Bengaluru on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K.

A large crowd of nearly 5,000 people, mainly migrant labour from north Karnataka, had gathered at Bannappa Park on Friday, eager to go home in buses operated by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). There was chaos and anger was palpable as there were not enough buses and the ticket price was beyond their reach.

Imran Khan, who hails from Kalaburagi, spent over ₹8,000 for five of his family members to return home. “I had to take a loan to buy the tickets. There is no work here and even two meals a day has become a problem,” he said, and added that he was unsure if he would return to Bengaluru.

Mallamma, a construction labour from Yadgir, said her family was unable to go home as they could not afford the tickets. “The government should have organised free travel. How can they expect someone relying on relief to afford to buy tickets at a steep price? It’s unfair,” she said. A ticket to Yadgir now costs ₹1,411. “It usually costs around ₹600,” she said.

A senior KSRTC official explained that the trips were being considered as contract carriage engaged by private parties. “Of the 55 seats, we are allowing only 30 passengers. The ticket price is being calculated to ensure the cost of the trip — ₹39/km calculated for a round trip and toll rates — is equally borne by 30 passengers,” he explained. It essentially means, a passenger travelling on these trips will have to bear the cost of not only 15 seats kept vacant to ensure social distancing, but also of the return trip, which results in the ticket price being more than double the usual.

Shivayogi C. Kalasad, managing director, KSRTC, however, claimed that the tickets cost only 30% more than usual. The KSRTC had begun charging migrant workers travelling back as per directions from the State government, he said.

U-turn

Last week, the KSRTC dropped over 16,000 migrant labourers in 598 buses to districts such as Bidar, Raichur, and Koppal with the district administrations bearing the travel cost. This practice has been reviewed and travellers have to now bear the cost, in what officers describe as a “strategy to discourage them from travelling home”.

“If we provide free transport, everyone will return home, creating problems both in the villages — triggering fear of spread of COVID-19 — and here in the city, hampering revival of economic activity, including construction work. As we are charging them, only those who genuinely need to go home will go,” said a senior official overlooking travel of migrant labourers.

Vinay Sreenivasa of Naavu Bharateeyaru, a social welfare coalition working with migrant labourers since lockdown, came down heavily on the government’s decision to charge the labourers for their travel back home. “If the government wants them to stay back, it must ensure their basic needs are met with dignity. When the relief work is also found wanting, its unfair to hold them back through these measures,” he said.


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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 1:59:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/steep-ticket-price-makes-migrant-workers-journey-home-arduous/article31485098.ece

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