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Covid-19 impact: Karnataka to provide financial aid to migrant workers

Announces Rs 3,000 each for construction workers as part of a Rs 1,630 crore Covid-19 relief package

Lockdown | Coronavirus | Indian healthcare system

Samreen Ahmad  |  Bengaluru 

Migrants from various northern states of India walk to board a special train for Gorakhpur, during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Bhiwandi
Migrants from various northern states of India walk to board a special train for Gorakhpur, during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Bhiwandi

Hours after cancelling all trains ferrying to their home states, the on Wednesday announced a Rs 1,630 crore Covid-19 relief package, which included financial assistance of Rs 3,000 each to construction workers. This will be made available to 1.58 million registered building workers in the state, the government said.

“This is over and above the Rs 2,000 that is already being transferred to their accounts,” said Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa in a tweet on Wednesday.

When asked if this amount would be enough for migrant labourers to sustain if factories do not resume work soon, state Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar said all permissions were in place for manufacturing units to resume work.

Karnataka has also announced relief measures for farmers, washermen, auto rickshaw and taxi drivers, MSMEs, large industries, weavers, and barbers whose incomes have been hurt because of the nationwide

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Each of them will receive a one-time assistance of Rs 5,000, and this is expected to benefit about 775,000 auto and taxi drivers, 60,000 washermen and about 230,000 barbers in the state. Flower growers who have lost demand for their produce will also get compensation of Rs 25,000 per hectare.

The state has also decided to launch a new scheme “Nekarara Sammana Yojane” under which it will deposit Rs 2,000 directly into the bank accounts of handloom weavers. This is likely to benefit 54,000 handloom weavers in the state, it said.

To rescue MSMEs, the state has decided to waive monthly fixed charges of electricity bills for two months. “To support large industries, we have decided that payment of fixed charges in the electricity bills of large industries will be deferred without penalty and interest for a period of two months,” said Yediyurappa.

Criticism for the state’s decision to cancel trains, allegedly under the pressure of the construction industry, came from various quarters. Former chief minister and Leader of the Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, Siddaramaiah, questioned if bonded labour was still being practiced in the state.

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“The decision… to cancel trains for migrants is not just inhuman but also violation of fundamental rights,” Siddaramaiah said. “Had the interests of labourers been taken care by the concerned stakeholders, migrants may have stayed back. Even the government did little to address their concerns,” he tweeted.

In Bihar, Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav, too, criticised the Karnataka CM, asking him to not dictate to migrant workers, disregarding their human rights and basic empathy. “Any move to treat them as bonded labourers/slaves will not be tolerated at all,” he said.

N Shivanna, state unit secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, called the cancellation a violation of human rights. “This step is unconstitutional and is a violation of human rights. The decision to ferry migrants was already in place but was rolled back because of pressure. The order should be withdrawn,” he said.

First Published: Wed, May 06 2020. 18:29 IST