Hours after the Karnataka government cancelled the trains arranged for stranded migrant labourers to return to their home states in a bid to revive the economy, hundreds of people began walking home from Bengaluru. In a video posted by Byatarayanapura MLA Krishna Byre Gowda on social media, at least 300 people were seen walking on the stretch between Hebbal flyover and Devanhalli in the city.
“State government cancels trains. Thousands of people, in groups of 10-20, are just WALKING TO UP. This is inhuman. They are so disturbed to walk home, please don’t force. Some may die. Govt cannot be the paid agent of real estate lobby. Send them well so they want to come back walking on Bellary road, 5.30 pm,” he tweeted to the Karnataka Chief Minister.
Speaking to IndianExpress.com, the former state minister said, “This is a human tragedy. I started seeing these people at 4 pm on Bellary Road. As I spoke to them, I was astonished to know that they were walking back to their native places in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand as they failed to get any other mode of transport.”
He said most of the people seen walking home were in their 20s or 30s. “They are really shaken by the inhuman decision taken by the Karnataka government to cancel trains,” he added.
Gowda said the labourers he interacted with were from the unorganised sector, and many of them were working in construction.
In the video, he is heard telling them that walking home was a “stupid idea”, to which workers replied they had no choice as authorities weren’t listening to their grievances.
“Even after the sunset and as rains poured down, they were determined to walk home as they told me how disconnected they felt from their families with no salary and food,” Gowda explained.
He said he tried to ask them to wait for a few more days until buses or trains were announced. “To this, they replied that they were worried about their families and were running out of essentials and money to survive in the city. None of them were ready to listen as they said they had lost hope in the government,” Gowda said. “I also tried offering them food and shelter until the next set of buses or trains were announced, but they did not accept the offer.”
Calling the decision to cancel Shramik Special trains ‘unnerving’, the MLA said the government should realise that “life of the poor also mattered and not just of those who were trying to return from abroad.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the opposition had hit out at the BJP-led government, accusing them of practicing “bonded labour” and “violating fundamental rights.”
Taking to Twitter in a series of tweets Congress Legislative Party leader Siddaramaiah wrote, “The CM’s decision of to cancel trains for migrants is not just inhuman but also violation of fundamental rights.
The argument of the Chief Minister that construction will not happen if migrants go back just exposes BS Yediyurappa’s mindset. He is willing to sacrifice the lives of helpless labourers for the sake of invisible hands,” he added.
The opposition said the decision to go home or remain in the state should have been made by the labourers and not the government.
The decision to go back or to stay back should be with the labourers & not with the government. Labourers are free to choose health or work. Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong?
Are we still practicing bonded labour?
For me #MigrantLivesMatter!!
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 6, 2020
“Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong? Are we still practicing bonded labour? For me #MigrantLivesMatter!!,” Siddarmaiah tweeted.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President D K Shivakumar urged CM Yediyurappa to convene a special session of the Assembly pointing out that the budget needs to be reworked and to discuss ways to revive the economy.
Gowda said the opposition supported the government’s efforts to revive the economy and to resume developmental works. “However, holding them (migrant workers) hostage by cancelling their right to chose work or health is highly condemnable and inhumane,” he said.
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