Ever since the government granted relaxations to the movement of migrant labourers and stranded citizens in various parts of the country, the Indian Railways has ferried over 125,000 passengers in 122 special trains.
However, a fresh row erupted on Wednesday after Karnataka government cancelled such special trains due to concerns over shortage of labour.
Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa appealed to over 100,000 workers who wished to go back to their native states to stay back as construction and industrial activities have begun. This led the opposition to attack state government, accusing it of treating migrants workers worse than "bonded labourers".
Yediyurappa announced a Rs 1,610 crore relief package for the benefit of those in distress due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown which included compensation of Rs 5,000 each for registered workers.
The Principal Secretary in the Revenue Department, N Manjunatha Prasad, who is the nodal officer for migrants, on Tuesday, cancelled the request for 10 Shramik Special trains. This reportedly happened after builders complained about the shortage of labourers if they were allowed to go back to their home states.
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Migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal had created a ruckus in Bengaluru on May 4, demanding to be sent home.
Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav also launched an attack saying that "the BJP govt in Karnataka is trying to 'hold Bihari brethren hostage' and violating their human rights," and demanded a "strong message" from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Meanwhile, Kumar asked his officials to accord priority to absorb the migrants in the state's labour pool for their economic rehabilitation.
Andhra CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that the government will pay for the travel of all the migrant workers back to their native states. He also instructed officers to ensure that one-time financial assistance of Rs 500 is given to all of them.
The Manipur government has also offered to pay the railway fare of stranded people, who want to return to their home state, chief minister N Biren Singh said on Wednesday.
In Bengal, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused the Mamata Banerjee government of being insensitive towards the demands of those stuck in different states. He claimed that the Bengal government has not asked for any special train other than the two that have arrived from Rajasthan and Kerala.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government said that the labourers can report for work at several project sites and earn their livelihoods. The government has identified several schemes and released contact details for the worksites where they can earn their livelihoods.