The trains were stopped on May 5 with Chief Minister Yediyurappa appealing to workers to return to work.

Karnataka govt to restart trains for migrant workers after public outrage
Coronavirus Coronavirus Thursday, May 07, 2020 - 16:14

The Karnataka government will restart train services to transport migrant workers back to their home states, confirmed top sources in the state administration. The move comes two days after Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa unilaterally stopped train services attracting widespread criticism for creating a ‘hostage’ situation for migrant labourers.

Sources confirmed to TNM that train services will resume from Friday. An IAS officer said that at least three trains will run on Friday. Railway officials remained tight-lipped about the matter and said that only state government nodal officers are authorised to speak on the matter.

The IAS officer also confirmed that only the Bihar government has accepted the proposal to ferry migrant workers and other states like West Bengal, Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh are yet to respond. The officer added that the government is trying to avoid hiccups unlike the last time and ensure that a more foolproof system is in place.

Manjunath Prasad, Principal Secretary in the Revenue Department who is the nodal officer for making arrangements for interstate travel, could not be reached for comment.

The train service is also likely to be free for migrant workers. However, a definite decision on this is awaited. Earlier, a controversy erupted after migrant workers were asked to pay higher than normal prices for the special trains.

The Karnataka government had facilitated eight special trains on May 3 and 4 with around 1,200 migrant workers aboard each train. However, this was stopped from May 5.

Yediyurappa had on May 5 appealed to migrant workers not to leave for their hometowns and instead assured them work. "I appeal to labourers with folded hands, don't pay heed to any rumours, it is the responsibility of the government to see to it that you get work at the place you were working... don't take hasty decisions of going to your native place. Stay here and work, as in the past," Yediyurappa had said.

Following this, labour unions and activists lashed out at the government accusing it of not taking labourers into confidence and instead using them to kickstart the economy. Organisations like the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, IIM-Bangalore faculty and various other groups and individuals had written to the Chief Minister to run free trains. The matter was also mentioned before the High Court.

TNM had earlier reported how many of the workers were registered in the government’s Seva Sindhu portal but only a few could get on the trains.

Many of these workers were living in deplorable conditions during the lockdown and were forced to starve without government aid and lack of pay from their employers.

In the last couple of days, there have been instances of minor violence as well including an incident of a police inspector getting injured.

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