The Karnataka government on Friday announced that it would fund travel on all Shramik trains until May 31.
The announcement comes after questions were raised by the Karnataka High Court on the legality of the state government’s refusal to bear the cost of train travel of migrant workers when their home states fail to deposit funds to cover the fares.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said on social media, “The government has considered the plea of migrant workers who were unable to bear the travel expenditure to go back to their home town. Karnataka government will bear the cost of travel of migrant workers and stranded persons to their respective states by Shramik trains up to 31st May, 2020.”
He added, “The 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.”
On Thursday, the high court, which is hearing a PIL about the plight of migrant workers, summoned the state chief secretary and labour secretary to explain why Karnataka is deviating from the policy laid down for free travel of migrants.
On May 18, the state government had maintained that migrant workers will have to pay the cost of train travel if their home states do not agree to bear their train fare. On Thursday, a divison bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Abhay Sreenivas Oka questioned the Railways’ stand, saying, “It is not clear whether the Railways are going to charge only 15% of the fare for travel by Shramik special trains.”
The bench added, “The concept of a welfare state has been consistently a part of our Constitutional philosophy. Today, because of the reluctance of the state government to bear the train fare of migrant workers who are not in a position to pay, apart from the allegation that it will violate the fundamental rights of the migrant workers, they will be forced to continue to stay in the state.”
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