"Does the state want to help migrant workers who are registered on the seva sindhu portal to travel back to their home states?", the Karnataka High Court on Thursday posed this question to the state government and has sought a reply from it on July 2.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna directed the state to clarify whether state government wants to lend a helping hand to those migrant workers who want to go back to their state and who are registered on the seva sindhu portal but could not go back before June 24.
State has been directed to place on record its decision whether such migrant workers will be treated on par with those migrant workers who were able to go back on or before June 24.
The court also directed the railways to submit details of the requisitions made by Government of Karnataka for special shramik trains from June 9 till June 24. The Supreme court had by its order dated June 9 directed all the states to transport the migrant workers within 15 days.
The state government in its written submission said till the evening of June 23, a total of 4.06,395 migrant workers had travelled from the state in 284 Shramik special trains. As per data shared earlier over 9 lakh people had registered on the seva sindhu portal.
Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa contended that mustering centres have been closed as people are not coming forward. He said "We (state) enabled people to travel. It can't be an endless process, it has to be stopped somewhere."
Further he said that there is no work elsewhere so there is demand of people wanting to come back as developers and other places have started work in the state.
However, advocate Clifton D Rozario appearing for All India Central Council of Trade Unions, informed the court that migrant workers who wanted to travel back to their home states were sent back when they tried to reach mustering centres on Thursday. To which Justice Nagarathna said "There can be only one truth, you (state) are saying all have been transported while the counsel for AICCTU is saying migrant workers tried reaching mustering centres today."
The court directed AICCTU to place on record material to show that migrant workers tried to visit mustering centres and were turned back. State is told to deal with this allegation by filing a submission on the next date of hearing.
The state also clarified that Principal Secretary, Revenue department and nodal officer, migrants has issued an addendum on June 19, to the 'Simplified policy for transport of migrants. Modifying paragraph 2 (b)(ii) to state that the migrants shall be informed that they must come to the mustering centre and that they will have to stay there compulsorily if they intend to travel.
To which the court said "This change in policy making it mandatory for migrant workers to come to mustering centers. Has come five days before the deadline fixed by the supreme court has come to an end. This court will have to ensure that opportunity was given to every migrant worker, who has registered himself on the Seva Sindhu portal and were provided the facility to return back to their respective state. State will have to satisfy us by producing material for the same."
The court also noted that as per the written submissions of the state two Shramik special trains will be operated on June 25 and June 26 which will be operated up to Jiribam, Manipur. There is nothing placed on record to show that after June 19, when policy of state underwent change, requisition was made to railways for running more trains.
The state is also directed to inform whether the helplines started for assisting migrant workers and needy people were still in operation.
The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on July 2.