Four special trains for migrants will be rolled from Karnataka this evening, two days after the state's decision to stop the Railway's "Shramik" service - launched last week for labourers amid coronavirus lockdown - sparked criticism. The decision was rolled back yesterday.
Manjunath Prasad, the nodal officer in-charge of movement of migrants out of the state, said, "Whenever trains are to be run from Bangalore, we require the consent of the corresponding state. Only after the consent, we can ask the Railways to operate the trains. We have got consent of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand. Today four trains are running. Tomorrow five trains would be operated. Everyday, we are running five trains."
"We have got consent from six states. About 2,51, 000 people are registered to go. But our limit is about five trains per day. About 6000 people on a train," he added.
Earlier today, the South Western Railways said: 'Today three Shramik specials are expected to depart from Bengaluru area in Karnataka .1) To Danapur (Bihar) at 4 pm; 2) To Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) at 4 pm; 3) To Lucknow (UP) at 6 pm."
Only migrant workers who have registered with the state government and are cleared for travel will be allowed on these special trains. The state government is taking the passengers to the stations in special buses.
The announcement to restart the special trains for migrants came on Thursday, a day after the state government's decision to cancel those trains led to widespread criticism and outrage.
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.
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.
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, included local workers as well.
However, the decision prompted attacks by the opposition parties as they accused the BS Yeddiyurappa government of putting commercial interests of the building lobby over the migrants. Many disappointed migrants spoke of their desire to see their homes and families again.
On Thursday, after rolling back its decision, Karnataka wrote to nine states - Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha - seeking their consent for receiving the workers.
Revenue Minister R Ashok insisted that the state was doing what it could to send migrants home. "The media are showing some wrong things. Already we are approaching 11 states. All the states have not given permission. So what we can do? We are ready to send. We have already booked 16 trains. There is no fault from Karnataka. We are only awaiting permission from other states," he said.