Bengaluru: Karnataka’s labour department on Friday sought a report from Kodagu district’s SP after the police rounded up nearly 5,000 labourers, mostly from Assam and Bengal, on Thursday for a document verification drive.
The department sought to know the legality of the exercise conducted by the police. The report was sought from the SP after the incident was brought to the notice of P Manivannan, Labour Secretary, on Twitter.
The police had summoned thousands of workers from the coffee plantations of the district to three centres - Madikeri, Virajpet and Kushalnagar - to show their documents. "Over 5,000 migrant workers' documents were checked. Around 500 workers did not have documents," Suman D Pannekar, SP, Kodagu had told media on Thursday.
The drive was questioned by many as it comes amidst the questions surrounding the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, which have together sparked fears that people would be rendered stateless if they fail to produce old documents.
However, IG southern range Vipul Kumar denied that the drive had anything to do with the CAA or NRC. "It was not a drive, but planters were told that if there were workers with no valid identity, then they could come to ensure their validity or identity. So to ensure that everything is done right, they must have all come. That definitely was not the SP's intention I am sure," he told CNN-News18.
Kumar also said that in an earlier case, a migrant worker from Assam was accused of murder but the plantation owner did not have any details about him and it became difficult for the local police to trace. Hence, such verification has become necessary, he said.
The exercise raised questions on whether the migrant workers were being profiled and targeted on suspicion that they are illegal immigrants as the exercise was not conducted with any government order.
Contrary to the police version, the BJP MLA from Virajpet said the "programme" was held to identify those from Bangladesh. "In recent times there has been a feeling that there are terrorists in Gonikoppal and they had a role in Mangalore riots,” KG Bopaiah told CNN-News18.
“That has shaken the entire state so police has taken up a special programme. In the entire district, how many people from Bangladesh or Assam are here we must find out? Are they really citizens of this country and do they have aadhaar? We should know this,” he said.
“All will be identified if they are some who are not able to participate in the programme they will be given another opportunity. My request to all coffee plantation owners is this is very important in the interest of our security," he added.