Almost 5,000 Migrant workers gathered at Bannappa Park on 1st May; 2020 who wanted to go to their families back in their villages or hometowns through the buses operated by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). The situation was an explicit representation of chaos and the anger among migrant workers and similar classes was justified for the reason that the State Government made arrangements for travel of migrant workers back to their homes was for the namesake. Neither enough buses were there nor the price of tickets was within the reach of migrant workers.
Those migrant workers who chose to leave the city with their families were either forced to take a loan or sell their essential items so that they can afford the tickets. Mallama who is a construction worker in Yadgir, mentioned that she along with her family could not afford to go back to their home because of the overpriced tickets. She even raised a question that how can the government expect migrant workers to pay for tickets at a steep price when their survival depends merely on the relief packages. The migrant workers are already suffering through endless predicaments and the courts have also not made decision that wages should be paid to migrant workers to mitigate their hardships. In such times, the steep price of bus tickets is simply inhumane and unreasonable.
When the KSRTC officials were enquired about the same, they informed that the trips were considered as contract carriages engaged by private parties. It was also informed that only 30 passengers were allowed for 55 seats and the cost of the ticket price was calculated at Rs. 39 per kilometre for a round trip and toll rates which is to be equally borne by all 30 passengers. Therefore, the persons travelling through these buses had to bear the cost of vacant seats in buses as well as of return trip of the bus. All the considerations taken by KSRTC for calculating the price of tickets is totally inhumane. When the migrants depend for their meals on the relief measures, then it is not reasonable to consider that they can afford to pay for overpriced tickets. The tickets should have been free of cost.
The Managing Director of KSRTC, Shivayogi C. Kalasad however claimed that tickets’ price was just 30% more than the usual and charging from migrant workers for travelling back were as per the directions of the State Government.
One of the officials even said that if the migrants will be allowed to travel for free, then it will lead to two more problems: it will encourage all migrants to go back to their homes thus, will contribute to the manifestation of COVID-19 in rural India which is untouched by the pandemic.Also, it will hamper the revival of economic activities in metropolitan cities. Though the problems mentioned were reasonable, but it would’ve been much better if the government had considered the plight of migrant workers who stay away from their homes. Those working from home get their salaries and wages with pay cuts. But those who cannot work from home like the ones in textile industry, domestic workers, construction workers, etc. did not receive their wages at all. Courts so far did not help much to mitigate their hardships so it is only the Government that can be relied on to reduce the plight of migrants during this pandemic. Hence, it is totally irrelevant to expect from such class of migrant workers to afford to travel back to their homes at overpriced tickets.
Article Written By- Muskan Sharma
Law Student– Jamia Millia Islamia
(HRDI Work From Home Internship)