Karnataka High Court’s directions to the State Government: Smoothen the process of transporting the Migrant Workers both within and without the State

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A Division Bench of Karnataka High Court, comprising of Chief Justice Abhay Sreeniwas Oka and Justice BV Nagarathna on 5th May 2020, passed an order directing the State Government to facilitate a smooth process of transporting migrant workers outside the State, considering that the social distancing rules notified by the Government aren’t overlooked in the process.

Categorizing the workers into two kinds, the Bench defined the workers who wanted to go back to their respective homes within the State as Intra-State Migrant Workers and the ones who wanted to go back to their respective houses in other States as Inter-State Migrant Workers.

It was brought to the  Court’s specific attention by the counsel appearing for People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) that more than the former, it was the Inter-State Migrant Workers who had been assembling in large numbers at various places for a lack of clarity and guidance concerning the modus operandi to reach their home States. For instance, four thousand migrant workers had flocked at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) ground on Tumkur Road in the city.

The State Government has been asked by the High Court to place on record, how they will facilitate the travelling of migrant workers outside the State and the policy decisions concerning the cost of travelling involved. The High Court further directed that assistance must be given in terms of the procedure for Registration and the workers must undergo a process of screening before travelling outside the State.

Concerning travelling within the State, it was reported by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) that on an inspection conducted by them, it was found that sixteen thousand persons had travelled from Bengaluru, on 3rd May, in the buses provided by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).

On the 4th of May, twelve thousand persons had undertaken travel by KSRTC buses too. Free transportation was provided to the migrant workers. The State was also ordered to indicate whether the workers travelling from one district to the other were medically assessed to check for symptoms of COVID-19 if any.

The High Court went on to opine that for the unemployed workers who did not intend to go back to their respective homes, it was the duty of the State Government to make provisions for cooked food, ration kits, etc., for them.

As regards to the issue of workers, employed in the project of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), who are not being paid wages, the Court has ordered a notice to be issued to them via email for them to be present on the next date of hearing. BMRCL is required to answer the Court on questions of the workers not being paid their wages regularly and also whether the willing ones are being allowed to go back to their respective homes. The matters ordered are set to be heard on the 12th of May, 2020 by the mode of video conferencing.


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