On 22.05.2020, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, BS Yediyurappa, gave important news on Twitter. It said that the State Government will now bear the cost of travel of migrant workers to their home states. They will travel by Shramik Trains up to 31.05.2020.
Why the Government Took Such a Decision?
This decision has come after the Karnataka High Court questioned the government. The government was not clear in its policy on the travel costs of migrants from other States. The State filed its written submissions on two orders that the High Court had passed in this matter. But the High Court, on 21.05.2020, criticized the State for not taking a conscious decision. The bench even questioned if the State can use the NDRF for paying the rail fare of the migrants unable to pay.
The Parties’ Stand
On 11.05.2020, the bench said that everyone should be able to go back to their states. The inability to pay the fare should not be a hindrance. In this light, the Court directed the State to come out with a clear policy. This matter had been going on for the past several days. In this regard, the Court had also directed the State to meet with various organisations. They had to find out if the meeting could solve the problem of funding the rail fare of the migrant workers.
The Karnataka Government took a stand that it can only pay the travel fare of the workers who belong to Karnataka. The workers in question are the ones who belong to other States. The workers travelling to their home states from Karnataka must get aid by the former. The Court, however, argued that this is contrary to the Central Government’s policy. According to the policy, the originating state is to bear the travel cost. Court further said that there should be no discrimination based on the migrants’ state.
The Right to Life and Right to Move Freely?
Yet, the State repeated its stance. It said that it was not doing anything erroneous or illegal. It could limit its “expenditure only to those migrants who are returning to the State”. The State further said that the right to equality or the right to life was not infringed. Article 19 (1) (d) did not impose any restrictions on the freedom to move throughout India. Only the Guidelines by Ministry of Home Affairs did. It added that the State was not obligated to “provide free transport to all persons within the State”.
The Court said that the issue of their survival is relating to their health and the needs of their families. They are not able to send money for the maintenance of their families. This is because they are stuck outside their states of origin. The Court said that both the Centre and the State will have to address such human issues. The concept of a Welfare State still needs to prevail.
The bench reminded both the governments about how this situation originated. After the news of lockdown, the migrant workers had no time to go back to their respective states. Till the travel restrictions eased a little, they had already lost their jobs. They had no source of livelihood and thus, we’re unable to pay their own travel fare.
Directions issued by the Court
The Court directed the Chief Secretary of the State Govt and the Secretary of the Labour Department of the State Govt that they have to be available for video conference hearing on 26.05.2020 at 11:00 Am. In light of this, the State’s CM announced on 22.05.2020 that the government will take the travel costs of migrants.
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