The court said that the availability of work cannot affect the rights of migrant workers who wish to return to their homes

Rethink decision to stop Shramik trains for migrant workers Karnataka HC tells state
news Coronavirus Friday, July 10, 2020 - 21:10

The Karnataka High Court on Friday asked the state government to reconsider its decision to not run ‘Shramik trains’ to help migrant workers return home after it was informed that a policy decision had been taken on the issue. 

The court was hearing a petition filed by the All India Central Council of Trade Union (AICCTU) and others who pointed out that the state government had closed down the mustering centre for migrant workers, where they could get information on the special trains.

Live Law quoted a division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar, stating that the situation in which the state government had decided to bear the cost of Shramik trains for migrant workers has not changed.

Bar and Bench quoted the court saying that the state government cannot ignore migrant workers as they had contributed to the development of Bengaluru.

It may be recalled that the Karnataka government had previously stopped Shramik trains, citing opening up of the economy and made a u-turn on the decision only after wide-scale opposition. Even the decision to not charge migrant workers whose livelihoods has been severely affected by the lockdown was a result of the same litigation. 

The Bench further observed that the spread of COVID-19 had worsened and questioned the state’s policy on making work available at places which were shut during the lockdown period.

The court said that the availability of work cannot affect the rights of migrant workers who wished to return to their homes, adding that a lack of work was not the only reason that migrant workers wanted to head home, and cited the fear psychosis surrounding the pandemic. 

Reacting to Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa’s submission that a policy decision had been taken, the Bench criticised the state government’s stand and said that it was a problem that the government wanted migrant workers to stay to benefit industries and the real estate lobby.

As part of the proceedings, AICCTU counsel Clifton D’ Rozario said that their union had submitted a list of migrant workers who wished to return from June 26 to July 7 and the mustering centre was closed without informing them.

The court asked Principal Secretary (Revenue) Manjunath Prasad, the nodal officer appointed for overseeing travel arrangements for migrant workers, to file a counter affidavit on the data presented to him by the AICCTU and posted the issue for further hearing. 

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