We, the undersigned, are writing to you in utter shock about the recent distressing move by the
Government of Karnataka (GoK) to cancel trains for migrant workers departing to their home
States.The decision was taken after a meeting between the Chief Minister and the Confederation of
Real Estate Developers Associations of India (CREDAI), and communicated via a letter dated 5 May
2020 to the South Western Railways.
This decision has been taken solely to appease the lobby of builders and contractors who claim that
the return of workers to their home states will adversely impact the construction sector. Neither
migrant workers nor trade unions representing them were consulted. Since 24 th March 2020, most of
the builders and contractors have completely abandoned the workers leaving them to scrounge for
food and money in violation of government orders. Several reports and workers’ testimonies, present
an alarming picture of the lockdown. As some reports indicate, 64% of migrant workers are left with
less than Rs 100, only 6% of them received full wages during the lockdown and only one in
five received rations. The Central and State Governments have failed to ensure payment of wages,
food, financial and tenure security during lockdown thereby stripping the workers of rights to dignity
In addition to this precarious situation, workers have been threatened with eviction and have been
subjected to police brutality in many places. Dramatic scenes of thousands of workers walking long
distances and queueing up to get registered to leave Bengaluru and Mangaluru to their home states
demonstrate their unwillingness to continue in such a hostile environment. It is symbolic of their
crushed dignity. After being put through such deep physical, emotional, and psychological trauma, the
announcement of cancellation of trains by the GoK is the worst assault on the workers whose labour
has contributed immensely to Karnataka’s flourishing.
The entire exercise of confusing travel orders by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the arbitrary
decision by the State government to cancel trains for workers is callous and is in disregard for the
migrant workers’ entitlement to Constitutional rights. It is this mindset which underlies this latest
decision by the State government prohibiting the right to travel which has to be strongly condemned.
This move of cancellation of trains violates the right to movement under Article 19(1)(d). By
infringing on the basic freedom to make fundamental choices about their lives it violates the
right to dignity under Article 21. By cancelling trains and ensuring workers continue to labour
in Karnataka it violates the constitutional prohibition on forced labour under Article 23.
We demand that the State Government rescind the order immediately. We demand recognition of the
autonomy and dignity of the migrant worker to decide their travel plans. No one should be forced
either to stay back or to return to their home states. We demand that the Karnataka government
abide by the Constitutional framework and immediately make the necessary arrangements to ensure
that any worker wishing to return is allowed to do so at no cost, and in a safe and dignified manner.
- Gram Seva Sangh with all other likeminded Organizations