Hundreds of migrant return to camps in Bengaluru as authorities didn’t get response from home states

Bengaluru: Hundreds of migrant workers who had gathered at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) on Tumkur Road returned to their labour camps on Tuesday, after the local authorities didn’t get clearance from their home states to send them back.

City corporation officials and the police had brought them to BIEC on Monday. From there, they were supposed to be taken to the railway station after a health check-up. Most of the workers were from Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Authorities seemed to be clueless about how to deal with the situation, as some of the states where the migrants belonged to did not provide any written clearance for their travel. While some of them were retained at BIEC to be sent to Bihar, others were transported back to their camps.

A few batches of workers had left for Odisha a couple of days ago.

Although the media was not allowed to enter the premises, trade union activists and officials who had access to BIEC told ET that the government was sending workers back to their camps due to lack of response from the states that were supposed to receive these workers.

On Sunday morning, the state government had asked migrant workers to come to railway stations assuring that trains were being arranged to take them home. But what transpired was a roller-coaster journey, as workers hopped from one place to another until they landed at the Freedom Park upon the government’s directive. After providing food, the government on Monday took the labourers by buses to BIEC, from where they were to be sent to railways stations to board trains.

“But these buses are all taking them back to camps where they came from, except for workers of one state who are likely to board the train,” said a trade union member who was assisting the workers. “Why did the Karnataka government bring them all here in the first place, without proper arrangements?” she asked.

Workers from different corners of the city started arriving at BIEC on Tuesday too with filled out registration forms, seeking officials to let them in and help them board the train, only to be turned away. “We were informed through our network that the government is facilitating the travel of workers from Karnataka to our home states. We came here hoping that we would board the train. But we are told that our turn may come only after a few days,” said Jitendra Yadav, a migrant worker from Bihar.

Karnataka government’s spokesperson on Covid-19, education minister S Suresh Kumar, said it was true not all states were immediately providing clearance for the return journey of migrant workers. Odisha and Bihar, however, have responded positively, and the government was in touch with others, he said.

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