The migrant labourers who have been facing the brunt of the nation-wide lockdown are now further bogged down by the Karnataka's government's decision to charge hefty amounts for their transportation to hometown amid the lockdown crisis.
The state government on Thursday, 30 April, had decided to allow migrant workers, tourists, students and others stranded in different parts of the state to return to their native places. The decision was followed by the Centre's release of guidelines for the process.
Bus services for migrant workers
The government had arranged bus services to facilitate this one-time movement, provided the bus fares to be taken by the migrant labourers themselves.
This decision of the government to withdraw the free transport for these migrant workers has turned out to be a huge blow upon them, mounting their lockdown hardships. Ever since the implementation of the national lockdown, these daily wage earners who were stranded across different parts of the country have been struggling dreadfully for their basic essential needs and demands.
The bus fares for their transport to the native places have been skyrocketed on Friday, stating that the buses cannot transport more than 30-odd people on each bus. The usual fare for the services was Rs 1 per km. This was but rose incredulously to Rs 39 per km.
The government, on Friday, had asked the workers to register themselves on the details of their places to go on sevasindhu.karnatka.gov.in. They were also provided options to submit the applications at BBMP ward offices and in districts as decided by respective deputy commissioners.
Exorbitant bus fares charged
According to the KSRTC contract carriage end to end non-AC bus fare list, the charges from Kalaburagi, Vijayapura, Dharwad, Udupi were increased to Rs 1,619, Rs 1,509, Rs 1,239 and Rs 1,110 respectively.
Before allowing for the travel, the government has ensured proper medical screening of all the passengers. Only one exit and the entry point were provided for all the buses that carried these labourers in and out of the state.
Thousands of migrant workers had contacted the nodal officers to register their names in the list of passengers. The huge spike the bus fares have but hit them all like a thunderbolt. Most of the opposition leaders, as well as the general public, criticised the government's decision of charging exorbitant bus fares ruthlessly although the decision to promote their transportation is welcomed.
Most of the people came to know about the bus fare threat only after reaching the bus stations with their family, all packed with their baggage.
With no money in hand, many of them had to return back disappointed. However, according to the KSRTC officials, nearly 14, 398 migrant workers were transported in 518 buses from April 24 to 30, free of all charges!
After the free transport facility, says the KSRTC officials, that they have decided to charge from the people who are coming in groups of 30. "It will be an end to end service and no additional passengers will be allowed to board to ensure social distancing. They will have to pay for both trips since there won't be passengers for the return journey," said an official.