Yediyurappa requests migrant workers to stay; Karnataka halts trains
The BJP-led Karnataka government has applied brakes on trains meant to ferry migrant workers to their home states, urging them to stay back as their exodus threatens construction industry and other economic activities. Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Tuesday requested the workers to stay put, assuring to give them food, accommodation, and financial aid. This is the second appeal he made in a week.
The massive exercise to send migrant workers, worst-hit due to coronavirus-linked lockdown, started last week. Weeks after the first lockdown started on March 25, the government ran special Shramik trains to take workers home. Earlier, Karnataka had requested South Western Railways to allocate two trains daily till Danapur, Bihar, for five days. But by Tuesday night, the letter was withdrawn.
In a late-night letter, N Manjunath Prasad, the nodal officer for inter-state travel from the state, told SWR no trains are required. When the Labor Department's Manivannan was asked how would migrant workers return to Patna, he wrote on Twitter, "Now, they can go only after the lockdown is lifted. Let them stay put. We will take care of them."
This move comes after Yediyurappa spoke with builders who complained of labor shortage due to migrants' movement. "I appeal to laborers with folded hands. Don't pay heed to any speculations. It's the government's responsibility to see that you get work at the place you were working earlier... Stay here and work," he said. Some five to eight lakh workers want to return home.
Yediyurappa said the COVID-19 situation in Karnataka was better than other states, and that there is a need to restart economic activities in non-red zones. According to the BJP leader, construction bosses started employing workers when the relaxations were eased. They have also promised to pay wages for one and a half months. Separately, Yediyurappa pulled up officials who were keen to transport workers.
An official in the know said the government plans to provide Rs. 2,000 to each worker, apart from the free rations, to help them buy nutritious food. The state will pay for two batches of ration kits. "Buses will be provided to private organizations on a contract basis at a discounted rate to ferry laborers for work," the official added.
A package of Rs. 1610 crores will be released as #COVID19 financial package. One time compensation of Rs 5000 will be given to 230,000 barbers and 775,000 drivers: Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. #CoronavirusLockdown https://t.co/tuiJK6ONIo— ANI (@ANI) May 6, 2020
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways said it has deployed over 70 special trains to ferry 80,000 stranded workers, students, and tourists in the last five days. Till Monday, 55 trains had either completed their one-way journey or had started it. Until the time, states continue demanding such trains, the Railways plan to run them. A source told TOI 500 such trains could be deployed.