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A day after Karnataka HC passes order, state government decides to bear cost of travel for outgoing migrants amid COVID-19 Lockdown

Rintu Mariam Biju

A day after the Karnataka High Court directed it to clarify its stand on whether it will bear the cost of travel for outgoing migrants amid the COVID-19 lockdown, the state government has decided to do so.

It is reported that this facility will be extended to all those migrants travelling on Shramik Special trains till May 31.

Yesterday, a two-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka had passed the direction after the state government failed to produce any document backing its stance that it was not in a position to pay for the train fare of outgoing migrant workers.

In view of this, the Division Bench opined that because of the reluctance of the state government to bear the train fare of the 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.The C

"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 the 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. They will have to look upon to the State Government for providing food and other necessities..."

Karnataka High Court

The Court further observed,

"...The migrant workers who are staying in the State by leaving their families in the States of their origin are in precarious position because they are unable to send money for the maintenance of their respective families. These are all human issues which need to be addressed by the State Government as well as the Central Government, considering the concept of Welfare State."

The Additional Solicitor General appearing for the Union government apprised the Bench that as per the earlier protocol, it was necessary that the state from which the migrants wished to travel and the receiving state reach an agreement. However, in the Standard Operating Protocol notified on May 19, the above condition is no longer there, it was informed.

Moroever, the Court stated that it was not clear whether the Railways are going to charge only 15% of the fare for travel by Shramik special trains.

"The stand of the Government of India as reflected from the memo dated 16th May, 2020 is that the train fare payable to the Railways shall be paid by the State Government and shall be recovered by it from the corresponding States to which the migrants will be traveling. There has to be a clarity on the question of the extent of fare charged by the Railways for Shramik special trains."

This apart, the Court passed the following directions:

  • Additional Solicitor General of India to take instructions from the Central Government and Railways on the question of waiver of train fare for the migrants who have been stranded in the State and who are not in a position to pay.

  • Additional Solicitor General will take instructions whether the State can be permitted to use the funds transferred by the National Disaster Response Fund for payment of train fare of the migrants who are not in a position to pay any amount.

  • The State government to place on record in what manner it will take care of the migrant workers and their families, if any, who are unable to go back to their respective States, as they are unable to pay the train fare.

  • The State Government must also make it clear for how long it will take care of such migrant workers and their families.

While passing these observations, the Court also noted that,

"The situation which has arisen today is due to the reason that there was no time available for the migrant workers to go back to their respective States after the declaration of lockdown. By the time the embargo on travel from one State to another was diluted, many of the migrant workers must have lost their jobs and/or source of livelihood and therefore, they are unable to pay the train charges."

The matter will be next heard on May 26.

Read the order here

Karnataka order - Migrants Transportation May 21.pdf
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