Karnataka To Restart Trains Taking Migrant Workers To Their Home States After Outrage

Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa had said around 1 lakh migrants had left and the those who remain would be needed to work at the construction sites.

Karnataka migrant trains: The trains are expected to run from May 8 to 15 (Representational)

Bengaluru: Three trains will roll from Bengaluru today, carrying migrant labourers to their home states, the Karnataka government decided on Thursday after much outrage over its Wednesday's move to withdraw its request for the Central service. The government -- which said the migrants were needed to run the state's booming construction sector -- has held talks with nine other states the workers are bound for. The rollback came after vehement criticism from the opposition Congress as well as on social media. The Congress had been scathing in its condemnation, questioning if the practice of "bonded labour" was still on. The resumption of the train service was greeted with jubilation at Bengaluru's migrant colonies on Thursday.

Here are the top 10 developments in this big story:

  1. The Karnataka government has written to Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha, conveying its decision and seeking their consent for receiving the workers, sources said.

  2. Officials said two trains a day will be run to the states till May 15, transporting the thousands of migrant workers stranded in Bengaluru and other districts due to the COVID-19 lockdown. One train a day will run to the northeastern states of Manipur and Tripura.

  3. On Wednesday, the Karnataka government had written to the railways, asking it to cancel the remaining of the 10 trains that were to run through the week. Eight special trains had ferried migrant labourers to their home states before the cancellation.

  4. Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa underscored that many of the migrants had already left the state and those who were remained were needed. "We have sent around one lakh people in 3,500 buses and trains back to their home towns. I have also appealed to migrant workers to stay as the construction work has resumed now," the Chief Minister told reporters.

  5. The government had also announced a Rs 1,600 crore relief package for those in distress because of the lockdown This included "registered" workers for its booming construction business, especially in state capital Bengaluru. The list, however, includes local workers as well.

  6. Other BJP leaders said the move would help restore the state's economy. "Stoppage of inter-state trains by Sri @BSYBJP is a bold and necessary move. It will help migrant labourers who came here with hopes of a better life to restart their dreams. Also, it will kickstart economic activities full throttle. Karnataka will emerge out of this stronger!" tweeted Bengaluru BJP MP Tejasvi Surya.

  7. At a migrant settlement in Bengaluru, people said all they wanted now was to go back home. "Our parents are there. Our children are there," was the refrain.  The cancellation of trains, many of them told NDTV, has left them "mentally disturbed".

  8. Demanding that they be sent home, a section of migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal had created a ruckus in the city on May 4. They also allegedly roughed up some policemen.

  9. Soon after, an avalanche of criticism started. Pointing out that the government's move will force migrants to stay in the state, Congress's Siddaramaiah tweeted: "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?"

  10. Tagging the Chief Minister, historian Ramchandra Guha tweeted: "The Karnataka Government has been widely and rightly condemned for cancelling the trains that were to take workers home. I hope that good sense and humanity now prevails and the trains can be started again.