The Karnataka High Court has asked the state government to ensure that adequate transport opportunities are available to the migrant workers from North Eastern States to reach their destination.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna made this suggestion after going through the written submission of the state in which it was stated that there are migrant workers who wish to go back to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. Around 14,149 migrant workers from Assam have registered themselves on the Seva Sindhu portal. 5,869 migrant workers from Tripura have registered on the portal. Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa submitted that ten Shramik trains have been operated to Assam and other areas in North-eastern region.
To which the bench said
"The State will have to ensure that adequate opportunities are available to the migrant workers from these States to reach their destination. There are few migrant workers from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and some of the Union Territories like Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu. Even 187 migrant workers from Sikkim have registered themselves on Seva Sindhu portal. The State will have to also take care of such migrant workers from these smaller States/Union Territories as the migrant workers will need help of the State Government to reach these far away and remote places. The State will have to respond by stating in what manner, all the migrant workers from Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands etc. will be transported. "
In regards to the courts direction to the state in placing on record the government's policy in selecting migrant workers boarding the shramik special train among those registered on the seva sindhu portal. The state said :
"All migrant workers registered on the Seva Sindhu portal are being informed by sending SMS about the assurance of the State to make arrangements to enable them to reach their home States. However, now the number of takers for Shramik Special trains has been reduced. Also, mustering Centers have been set up in the city of Bengaluru and the migrant workers who have been chosen to travel by a particular Shramik train are being instructed to go to the Mustering Centers. As and when the accumulated figure of migrants in Mustering Centers reaches 1,500, the migrants will be transported through Shramik trains and till this figure reaches, they will be housed at Mustering Centers and all facilities will be provided to them."
However, the court said :
"Even assuming that what is mentioned in the written submissions on this aspect is taken as a policy which is being implemented, there is no guarantee that the SMS generated will reach migrant workers who have registered on the Seva Sindhu portal. Therefore, it may not be proper to draw a conclusion that when a migrant worker to whom SMS has been sent does not remain present either at the station or at the Mustering Center in the city, he is not interested in going back."
"As pointed out by the learned Additional Advocate General, it will be difficult to ascertain whether 25,000 SMS sent at a time have reached the destination. If that be so, as indicated earlier, firstly, there has to be a transparent and fair policy for choosing the registered migrants to travel by a particular train. Secondly, before arriving at the conclusion that the migrant workers who have registered on the portal are not interested in going back to their respective states, a rational method will have to be evolved to ensure that no migrant worker is denied opportunity to travel by Shramik trains only on the ground that he has not responded to SMS. The reason is that the State has no machinery to verify whether the SMS has reached each migrant worker."
The court has also directed the state to establish mustering centers at major district places where there are large numbers of migrant workers who have registered themselves on the portal. This followed the submission made by Advocate Clifton Rozario appearing for All India Centre For Trade Unions that out of 7,04,799 stranded migrant workers, between 92,000 and 93,000 are in Bengaluru Rural and Urban Districts. Others are spread over in various districts. The Mustering Centers have not been established in other districts.