Around 69 advocates from Bengaluru, Delhi and Maharashtra on Thursday issued a statement condemning the action of the Karnataka Government in cancelling all special trains for migrant workers.
The statement says "We, the undersigned Advocates, unequivocally condemn the action of the Karnataka government cancelling all special trains for migrant workers subsequent to a meeting with certain representatives of builders. We believe that such an act is absolutely horrific and amounts to bonded labour as prohibited under Article 23 of the Constitution."
Since the imposition of the lockdown, migrant workers in Karnataka have faced situations of extreme crisis. Trapped between the non-payment of wages and the prohibition of travel, including the closure of all public transportation, these workers have been forced to beg for food. The massive failure of the State to initiate a comprehensive plan to ensure the food, livelihood and financial security of these workers has resulted in thousands of them being trapped in a vicious debt cycle. These workers, who have played an indispensable role in the development of the State, are deprived of dignity and forced to survive in pathetic conditions.
The Apex Court has clearly settled the position of law in People's Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India [1982 AIR 1473] and Sanjit Roy vs State of Rajasthan [1983 AIR 328] that compulsion to work, whether physical or economic, would amount to forced labour prohibited under Article 23. The compulsion on workers to remain where they are and either starve or work is a total negation of human identity of workers to mere labour. This is slavery.
Not only bonded labour, but there is also the added element of unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions on the fundamental rights of these workers to move freely throughout the territory of India; to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business, in terms of 19(1)(d),(e), and (g) of the Constitution of India.