Karnataka government on Tuesday announced that no more trains will be run to ferry migrant workers stranded in the state to various destinations across the country, News18 reported. This came after Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa met prominent builders and real estate firms who reportedly expressed concern over the mass exodus of labourers.
“The coronavirus situation in the state is under control as compared to other states,” Yediyurappa claimed after the meeting. “Barring the red zones, business, construction work and industrial activities have to be resumed. In this background, it was explained that unnecessary travel of the migrant workers has to be controlled.”
N Manjunath Prasad, nodal officer for inter-state travel from Karnataka, wrote to South Western Railway asking to cancel all trains scheduled from Wednesday. About 10,000 labourers who wanted to go to Bihar were at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre. However, after the chief minister’s meeting with builders, three trains scheduled for Bihar were cancelled, Prasad told the channel.
“These are people who have come to work in Bangalore,” Prasad said. “Once there is employment, normalcy will get established… so why go back then? Those who still want to go back can do so using their own vehicle.”
Prasad said that while most of those who had already booked tickets had left, the authorities would “convince others to stay back” as economic activity would begin, according to The Hindu. “We want the migrant labourers to stay back,” an unidentified government official told the newspaper. “They are the backbone of our economy without whom we cannot kick-start the economy. We will take good care of them.”
The South Western Railway had run eight trains to various destinations across the country from Karnataka until Tuesday. Struggling to make ends meet amid the lockdown, lakhs of migrant workers have demanded permission to go back to their hometowns. Many have attempted to travel home on foot, but have been stopped due to the closure of state borders. Some have died on the way.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had last week allowed movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and “other persons” by special ‘Sharmik’ trains to be operated by the Railways amid the nationwide lockdown. The first special train carrying 1,200 migrants left from Telangana for Hatia in Jharkhand the same day.
The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 49,391 on Wednesday morning and the country recorded 1,694 fatalities, according to the figures from the health ministry.