No migrant should be denied the opportunity to return to home State due to incapacity to pay for transport: Karnataka HC [Read Order]
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No migrant should be denied the opportunity to return to home State due to incapacity to pay for transport: Karnataka HC [Read Order]

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court recently asserted that no migrant person should be deprived of an opportunity to go back to his own State due to his incapacity to pay for the transport.

Highlighting this, the order passed by Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna reads,

"Prima facie, it appears to us that considering the constitutional rights of the migrant workers, no one should be deprived of an opportunity to go back to his own State only for the reason that he has no capacity to pay for the transport. The reason is that inability to pay is due to loss of livelihood."
Karnataka High Court

Keeping this in mind, the Court has directed the Central Government through the Ministry of Railways to look into this issue, especially given that the Home Secretary of the Government of India had addressed all the Chief Secretaries on May 11, directing that the State Governments should cooperate with the Central Government for running more number of “Shramik” special trains so that the traveling of the migrant workers is facilitated at a faster rate.

Adding on, the Court went on to say,

"The State Government and the Central Government, during this difficult time, must appreciate the major contribution made by the migrant workers in a large number of public projects as well as private projects which have contributed to the improvement of the infrastructure in all the States and the improvement of economy. At a time when the migrant workers who have made such a huge contribution are facing distress, both the Central and State Government must come forward to help them to ensure that at the earliest, they return back to their home States."

Karnataka High Court

With these observations in the issue, the Court urged the State Government to immediately convene a meeting of with Trade Unions, Employers’ Associations and NGOs in the State to ascertain whether any contribution can come from the Employers’ Association, Trade Unions and NGOs which can, in turn, be used for bearing the train fares for migrant workers who are not in a position to pay for the same.

While the State Government had told the Court that migrant workers in Karnataka will be permitted to travel back to their home States, the Court noted that there are still a large number of migrant workers who are found on highways, making an endeavor to walk upto their respective States.

The Bench opined that one reason for this is that the assurance of the State Government that every migrant worker will be allowed to go back to his home State has not reached the migrant workers.

The Court proceede to observe that once a policy decision is taken by the State Government that all the migrant workers will be permitted to return to their respective States by the special trains, that assurance of the State Government must reach the migrant workers, who have applied for permission to travel.

In this regard, the Court has ordered the State Government to ensure that this policy is communicated to every such migrant worker intending to go back to their respective states. The Bench added,

"The State Government must take the help of all the Trade Unions and Non Governmental Organisations (for short ‘NGOs’) who are working in the field to ensure that the assurance of the State reaches the migrant workers who have already registered with the State Government."

This apart, the Division Bench passed the following set of directions:

  • The State Government must work out a time schedule for facilitating transport of these migrant workers to their respective States;

  • The State Government should ensure that a broad time schedule is communicated to the migrant workers.

  • The State Government must place on record the details of the special trains so far arranged from various places in the State of Karnataka and the special trains which are scheduled to run in near future.

  • Considering the delay involved in making available the traveling facilities to the migrant workers, the State Government must ensure that as long as the migrant workers remain in Karnataka, the supply of ration/food to them is uninterrupted.

  • The State will have to also address the issue of the facilities extended to the migrant workers who are from the State of Karnataka and who are working in other States.

  • With respect to the requests received by the State of Karnataka, the steps taken for repatriation of those migrant workers to return to Karnataka etc., shall be also placed on record.

The matter has been next posted for hearing on May 18.

[Read order here]

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