The Karnataka High Court has directed the state to place on record its systematic plan to facilitate transport of more than 6,00,000 people who are yet to return to their respective States and are registered on the Seva Sindhu portal.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna has asked the state to disclose in what manner the migrant workers registered on the Seva Sindhu portal are chosen to travel by a particular train.
The Court repeatedly observed that there was no "fair, transparent and rational" policy by the State Government in selecting eligible persons out of the migrants workers who have registered for travel.
The details were called after it was informed that the state had on May 26, sent an SMS seeking a re-confirmation from all registered migrant workers on whether they would like to travel back to their home states. Noting that this process of seeking confirmation was not practical and effective, the bench observed :
"The confirmation was called for in a most complicated manner by calling upon them to type 'YES' followed by the last six digits of their registration number. Lakhs of migrant workers and their family members who have registered themselves on Seva Sindhu website are in a very bad condition. Most of them may not be in a position to give reply as aforesaid even assuming that their cell phones are working. They have no income and they are looking to the State Government for daily food and all basic necessities of life".
The Court added :
"Prima facie, we are of the view that this exercise undertaken by the State of seeking confirmation from the migrant workers in a complicated manner appears to be an exercise undertaken to exclude a large number of persons who have already registered themselves on the Seva Sindhu website to go back to their respective States."
In this regard, the Court noted that a train which left from Karnataka to Uttar Pradesh on May 26 had many vacant seats. This might have happened due to the State's failure to properly give communication to the registered migrant workers, the Court inferred.
"The data placed on record by the State Government shows that the State Government received confirmation of 5,179 persons that they intend to travel back to the State of Uttar Pradesh. Thus, it is prima facie apparent that some seats in the aforesaid trains were vacant as the State could not inform all those who intended to travel to Uttar Pradesh to use the facility. Therefore, this ground for doing this exercise of calling for confirmation is not available to the State".
The government in its written submissions made to the court said that there are approximately 9,13,742 migrant workers/their family members/associates who have registered on Seva Sindhu website for seeking transport to their respective States. Out of that about 2,56,000 such persons have been transported by Shramik special trains.
Between May 3 to May 27 a total of 2,56,000 persons have been transported. On May 26, the government after sending SMS got confirmations from only 55,464 migrant workers wanting to go back to their respective States.
The court said
"Prima facie, it appears to us that the State cannot give out of turn priority to 55,464 persons who have communicated their willingness by sending SMS. The reason is that there is a complete absence of a transparent and fair policy to choose persons out of registered applicants."
"Though several orders have been passed by this Court from time to time, as of today, the State has not placed on record any transparent and rational policy of selecting the persons out of those who have registered on Seva Sindhu website for being transported by a particular Shramik special train. It is not placed on record in what manner the persons registered on Seva Sindhu website are chosen to travel by a particular train."
The bench also sought to know how the Police Department identified 1,20,507 migrant workers across the Bengaluru City who are located in 736 migrant camps and arranged for their transport to their respective States.
"It is not clear whether this 1,20,507 migrant workers were registered on the Seva Sindhu website. Even assuming that they were registered on the Seva Sindhu website, it is not clarified by the State Government why they were given out of turn priority for returning to their respective States."
The court reminded the state that it has not taken steps to communicate an assurance to the migrant workers who are registered on the Seva Sindhu website that the State will make all arrangements to transport them to their respective States.
Additional Advocate General assured the court that the State Government has no intention of excluding anyone who is registered on Seva Sindhu website and the State will take immediate steps to communicate an assurance to all those who have registered on Seva Sindhu website that the State will make all possible arrangements to enable their transport back to their respective States.
As regards the arrangements of food on trains for the migrant workers the Central Government said "For first few hours of journey by Shramik trains will be provided by the State Government and further meals will be provided by the Railways." The state said a meal kit is provided to every passengers which includes, 5 mausambi fruits, 1 veg pulav, 1 pack of chapati/sabji, 1 boiled egg, i pack of butter milk, 1 pineapple fruit, 3 litres of bottled drinking water and toys to children.
The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on June 4.
Read some of the previous orders passed by the HC in this case :
Shramik Trains : Karnataka HC Asks Centre & State About Arrangements To Provide Food & Water To Migrants [Read Order]
After Karnakata HC Rap, Karnataka Govt Decides To Bear Cost Of Migrants' Travel To Native States
Can State Be Permitted To Use NDRF Funds For Bearing Rail Fare Of Migrants Who Can't Pay? Karnataka HC Asks Centre
No Migrant Should Be Denied Opportunity To Travel Back Only Because Of Incapacity To Pay Rail Fare : Karnataka HC [Read Order]
'Many Migrants Lost Lives Due To Long Walk & Hunger' : Karnataka HC Directs Govt To Inform Policy On Special Trains
Click here to download order passed on May 28.