The Karnataka High Court has directed the State and Central Government to give details of arrangements made for providing food and water to the migrant workers who are traveling by Shramik special trains.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna ordered:
"It will be appropriate if both the State Government and Central Government place on record the details of the arrangements which are made by the State Government as well as by the Indian Railways to provide food and water to the migrant workers who are traveling by Shramik special trains, which will take care of three meals a day. This is in the context of the fact that train journey to States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa takes two to three days."
The details have to be provided by May 28.
The court gave the direction after All India Central Council of Trade Unions, raised a grievance regarding the failure of the Railways to provide adequate food to onboard passengers.
Additional Advocate General appearing for the Karnataka Government submitted that food kits were being supplied by the Labour Department to all the migrant workers traveling by Shramik special trains from Karnataka to other States.
The Additional Solicitor General, appearing for the central government said that Railways have made adequate arrangements for providing sufficient food and water to the migrant workers who are allowed to travel by Shramik special trains.
Chief Secretay Vijay Bhaskar, informed the court about the decision of the state government to bear the train fare and bus fare of migrant workers who wish to travel back to their respective States, up to and inclusive of May 31. He said that migrant workers who have registered earlier to go back to their respective states may not be interested in going back now and therefore, by sending an SMS to the migrant workers, the State is ascertaining whether all of them want to go back.
The court had on May 21 summoned the Secretary to appear before it after expressing displeasure over the stand of the government that it would not pay for train fare of migrant workers leaving the state who cannot afford to pay the fare.
After Karnakata HC Rap, Karnataka Govt Decides To Bear Cost Of Migrants' Travel To Native States
In response to the statement of the Chief Secretary, the bench raised a query whether it is possible to ensure that all the migrant workers who have registered to go back to their respective States can be transported by May 31. If not possible to provide transport up to that date to all the migrant workers who have registered, whether the State will continue to bear the train fare and bus fare after May 31, asked the bench. The Chief Secretary sought time to revert on the same.
In this regard, the Additional Solicitor General of India said that Shramik special trains can continue to be run by the Railways even after 31st May, 2020 provided requisitions come from the concerned State Governments.
The counsel appearing for AICCTU submitted a memo stating that on May 23, thousands of migrant workers gathered at Palace Ground in Bengaluru city. Of the gathered more than 30% to 40% of them who were standing in the hot sun were women, children and senior citizens. They did not have food or water.
To which the court said
"Though our earlier orders and especially the order dated 12th May, 2020 records the necessity of informing the migrant workers a schedule or atleast outer limit within which arrangements will be made to enable them to go back to their respective States, the State has not placed any material on record to show that any such information has been furnished to the migrants who have registered themselves to go back. Perhaps, the situation which arose on 23rd May, 2020 is due to the lack of certainty or lack of information being communicated to the migrant workers who are eager to go back to their respective States."
The court also pulled up the government for making a statement that some migrant workers previously registered are not willing to go back to their respective states. Trains that left Karnataka for other states earlier had vacant seats.
"The State Government cannot make a general statement that some migrant workers who have already registered on Seva Sindhu are not willing to go back to their respective States. It is not possible to accept as of today that, only by sending SMS to migrant workers who have registered themselves, the State can make a claim that some of the migrant workers do not now wish to go back to their respective States. In fact, in the last written submissions filed by the State Government, it is brought on record that a large number of migrant workers could not register themselves on the website and therefore, the Police were instructed to take written applications from them for registration on the website."
The court has called for the following details from the state government:
(i) The total number of migrant workers who have registered themselves on Seva Sindhu website for going back to their respective States by Shramik special trains. This figure shall be as of tomorrow (27th May, 2020);
(ii) The State Government shall also place on record the number of migrant workers who have been transported back to their respective States till 27th May, 2020;
(iii) The State will also place on record the figure of such migrant workers who have now stated that they do not wish to go back to their respective States;
iv) While giving the aforesaid figures, the State will give districtwise breakup of the migrant workers who have registered themselves to go back to their respective States by Shramik special trains;
(v) The State will also give the breakup indicating the States to which the migrant workers have applied to go back;
(vi) The State shall also place on record the details of the requests made by it to the Railways to run Sharmik special trains to various places up to and inclusive of 31st May, 2020;
(vii) The State will also place on record the efforts made to allow migrant workers to register themselves on Seva Sindhu who are not in a position to use the internet for registering themselves;
(viii) The State shall now place on record whether any communication has been issued through the NGOs, Unions, etc., to the migrant workers who have already been registered, about the possible outer limit within which arrangements will be made for transporting them;
(ix) The State will also place on record such other details as may be found relevant in this connection to satisfy the Court that the State Government is making all possible arrangements for smooth transportation of all migrant workers who have registered to go back to their respective States by Shramik special trains.
The bench has also asked AICCTU or any other Unions or NGOs who have a list of migrant workers who wish to travel back to their respective States, to submit the same to the State Government so that government can ensure they are registered on Seva Sindhu portal and requisition can be submitted by the State Government to the Railways for arranging Shramik special trains.
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