Karnataka cancels trains for migrant labourers

Coronavirus lockdown: Karnataka cancels inter-state trains fearing labour shortage

Activists condemned the decision to cancel train services. (Credit: AFP Photo)

Two days after assuring migrant workers of arranging transport to facilitate travel to their home towns in other states, the state government made a U-turn and cancelled train services it had requested.

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Hours after Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa held a meeting with the builders and contractors on Tuesday evening, the Revenue Department wrote to the South Western Railways seeking cancellation of 10 train services it had requested earlier.

"We had requested to arrange to run two train services everyday for five days (total 10 train services..," the department said, adding that the request stands withdrawn as "since the train services are not required from tomorrow". No explanation was given for the sudden reversal of decision. 

A senior official who attended the meeting, however, said the government changed its mind after the builders said they needed the workers to begin construction activities. "The builders have assured the government that the labourers will be taken care of. The labourers wanted to go as they had no job. Now that the work will begin, they will stay back," he said.

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However, DH has spoken to several labourers building the metro line in Electronic City as well as Bannerghatta Road who do not want to continue to work. A labourer from Madhya Pradesh had said he was ready to forego his salary but wants to go home. Many of them were not even aware of the state government portal allowing them to register for the train journey.

The official, however, said the decision has been made by the chief minister. "More than 53,000 people have registered to go back to Bihar. What will happen to Bengaluru's construction industry if they go back," he asked.

Activists condemned the decision to cancel train services. "The government has done a great injustice to labourers by bowing down to the pressure from the real estate," Vinay Sreenivasa said.

The AICCTU said the government's move violate the fundamental right of the freedom of movement and also amounts to forced labour.