In a surprise U-turn, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Friday announced that the government will bear all expenses of the migrant workers travelling back to their native-states by the 'Shramik Special' trains.
"Government considers migrant workers, who have come from far flung parts of our country, as our own people and it is my firm belief that they too must be supported by the state," he announced.
Just two weeks back, the Yediyurappa government had faced severe flak for having suspended trains for migrants who wanted to go back to their home-states. Karnataka has more than 3 lakh migrant workers who have registered on the 'seva-sindhu' portal, expressing a wish to return to their homes.
After the outrage by opposition parties and other workers' rights group, the government had resumed the trains meant to ferry the workers back to their states. However, as with most other states, workers had to shell out between 600 and 1,110 for a seat, depending on how far their journey was. Over a 100 trains have travelled from Karnataka in the last ten days.
The State's labour relief centres continue to see a continuous flow of workers from different parts of the state who seek help and support- both for their food, rations, water and daily needs like stay and toilets, but also for transport.
On Thursday, the Karnataka High Court while hearing a plea on the plight of migrant workers, pulled up the government on what it was doing to help the labourers.
A division bench headed by the Chief Justice has summoned the Chief Secretary and labour Secretary to personally appear via video conferencing on May 26 to give the government stand on what it would do to help those labourers who cannot go back to their native states due to lack of money.
Many labourers have lost their jobs and been thrown out of their homes as either the projects they were working on have been suspended or they could not pay rents. Jobless and homeless, with no incomes for two months, they have been mostly sheltered at relief centres that have been opened up at convention centres in different parts of the State.
"The government has considered the plea of migrant workers who were unable to bear the travel expenditure to go back to their home town. Therefore, the Karnataka government will bear the cost of travel of migrants workers and stranded persons to their respective states by 'Shramik' trains up to May 31," the CM tweeted.