Karnataka govt withdraws request for special trains, workers desperate to leave

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(Eds: Recasts, adds quotes) Bengaluru, May 6 (PTI) The Karnataka government has withdrawn its request to the railways to run special trains to ferry migrant labourers to their home states, but desperate workers are keen on returning amidst difficult survival conditions.

The decision to withdraw the plea for special trains came hours after Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Tuesday appealed to the workers to stay put in the state.

'I appeal to labourers with folded hands.. don't pay heed to any rumours. It is the responsibility of the government to seeto it that you get work at the place you were working...

Don't take the hasty decision of going to your native places. Stay here and work, as in the past,' he had said on Tuesday in his second such appeal made within a week.

However, most labourers are not in a mood to stay back as the lockdown has left them virtually high and dry besides posing other issues, and they want to leave for their home states.

The Principal Secretary in the Revenue Department, N Manjunatha Prasad, who is the nodal officer for migrants, had requested the South Western Railways on Tuesday to run two train services a day for five days except Wednesday, when the state government wanted services thrice a day to Danapur in Bihar.

However, Prasad wrote another letter within a few hours, saying that the special trains were not required.

'Since the train services are not required from tomorrow, the letter cited under reference above is withdrawn,' Prasad wrote to the SW Railway General Manager on Tuesday.

The Railway officials said they have received the letter seeking withdrawal of the previous one for running special trains.

Prasad was not available for comments.

On Tuesday, the builders had apprised Yeddiyurappa about the shortage of labourers if they were allowed to go back to their home states, said a source privy to the issue.

While the supply of construction material was not a major issue with the relaxation in lockdown norms, the city would witness labour problem if the migrant workers were allowed to go back to their home states, the builders had said.

After the meeting, Yeddiyurappa had urged the labourers to stay back and assured them of every assistance.

Incidentally, a section of migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal had created a ruckus in the city on May 4, demanding that they be sent home.

They also allegedly roughed up some policemen.

On Tuesday, Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka met the migrant labourers at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre, where they have been accommodated.

Most of the labourers were afraid of staying here for fear of contracting COVID-19.

They are also concerned about the well-being of their families back home and are apprehensive that they may not be able to return quickly if their kin faced some problems.

Shailesh, a painter from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, said he had exhausted all the money that he had.

'My elder brother is stuck in Hyderabad whereas I am held up in Bengaluru. Both of us are jobless for the past one-and- half months,' he told PTI.

He also said the money lender who had lent Rs 40,000 to his parents has been pestering them for the past one week to return it. He apparently wants to be with them during such a situation.

A few migrant labourers stuck in the slums near Subramanyapura in the state capital said they are out of cash to purchase grocery items.

Crammed in four small rooms in a suffocating atmosphere, thes 14 labourers said arranging food was a big challenge.

'We are getting Khichri, but how long can one eat this alone,' they said and made it clear they wanted to go back to their native state.

The Chief Minister had on Friday urged the workers to stay back in the state and co-operate with the government in resuming economic activities.

On Tuesday construction industry representatives had informed him they have started providing employment to migrant workers in the past few days after relaxation in some of the lockdown norms, Yeddiyurappa said.

Besides, the builders also said they paid salary and provided food to the workers during the past one-and-half months despite no work, he had said. PTI GMS ROH SA APR RAVINDRANATH APR RAVINDRANATH