Kar HC | Complete absence of transparent & fair policy to choose persons for travel through Shramik Trains from Karnataka; No assurance provided to migrants to avoid unrest amongst them

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, CJ and B.V. Nagarathna, J. held that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time-to-time, the State has not placed on record any transparent and fair policy for selecting persons out of those who registered on Seva Sindhu website.”

Bench addressed the present petition to deal with issue of migrant workers who had applied to be accommodated to the Shramik Special Trains to their origin State.

For the above, Court stated that,

“though several orders have been passed by this Court from time to time, as of today, the State has not placed on record any transparent and rational policy of selecting the persons out of those who have registered on Seva Sindhu website for being transported by a particular Shramik special train.”

Court by its 12th May, 2020 Order has directed the State Government to give assurance to the migrant workers registered on Seva Sindhu Website that the State will make all arrangements to transport them to their respective States.

Object was to ensure that there is no unrest and none of them should even attempt to walk upto their respective States, but even as of 28th May, 2020 none of that assurance was communicated.

Further the Court observed that,

State Government being fully aware, that all the migrant workers who intended to go back to their respective States had registered themselves on Seva Sindhu website long back, instead of sending messages on their cell phones assuring that the State Government will make all possible efforts to send them back, messages were sent to more than 8,33,667 applicants calling for their confirmation. The confirmation was called for in a most complicated manner by calling upon them to type ‘YES’ followed by the last six digits of their registration number.

Most of the migrant workers may not be in a position to give reply as aforesaid even assuming that their cell phones are working.

For the above-stated action of sending messages for confirmation, State Government defended its move by pointing out that two shramik trains for Uttar Pradesh prior to 26th May, 2020 had some vacant seats.

Court stated that it is prima facie apparent that some seats in the Shramik trains were vacant as the State couldn’t inform all those who intended to travel to Uttar Pradesh to use the facility.

Prima Facie, Court’s opinion was that the said exercise undertaken by the State appears to be an exercise undertaken to exclude large number of persons who had already registered themselves to go back to their respective States.

State cannot come out with an excuse that it is not possible to communicate such assurance as they have undertaken the exercise of sending SMS to all registered mobile numbers of the applicants registered on Seva Sindhu website.

Additional Advocate General stated that the State Government has no intention of excluding anyone who is registered on Seva Sindhu website and the State will take immediate steps to communicate an assurance to all those who have registered and will make all possible arrangements to enable their transport back to their respective States.

“…there is complete absence of a transparent and fair policy to choose persons out of registered applicants.”

Further with regard to grievance of delay on part of Railways in providing food, explanation was given that there was a delay in the trains reaching the railway stations where arrangements were made to serve food as the trains were stranded due to various reasons. 

From the submissions it was also stated that food for first few hours of journey by Shramik trains will be provided by the State Government and further meals will be provided by the Railways.

Counsel for Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Boards stated that wages to all migrant workers who had left the work have also been fully paid.

An assurance is also provided that, State Government will take action for violation of provisions of Payment of Wages Act, 1936 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

Lastly, the Court concluded its decision by stating that in terms of the above stated assurance, action will be initiated by State Government against employers/contractors concerned which would ensure that workers get their unpaid wages.[Mohammed Arif Jameel v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 539 , decided on 28-05-2020]

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