The Indian state government of Karnataka reported that some 368 Bangladeshi and Nepalese migrant workers have signed up to return home among the 4.88 lakh migrants, who seek to return home from Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Belagavi and Udupi at the earliest.
The laborers have registered their names with police, revenue department and other officials in their districts, requesting transport facilities to return to their hometowns and villages as they have no jobs or income due to the lockdown, Times of India reported.
The state government now faces the massive task of screening, accommodating and transporting this workforce to different destinations; as for workers from the neighboring countries, it will have to coordinate with the Centre.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa appealed to migrant workers on May 5, for the second time in four days, asking them to stay back and wait for work to resume. "I appeal to labourers with folded hands, don't pay heed to any speculation. It is the responsibility of the government that you get your old jobs back. Don't make a hasty decision to return home. Stay here and work, as you have so far," he said.
At a meeting with builders and officials, he said there was a need to restart businesses, construction and other industrial activities in the state, and, control "unnecessary travel" of workers.
According to trade unions, there are around 8 lakh laborers in the state. Among those who have registered to return home, more than 2 lakh are from north Indian states. Workers from Odisha top the list — the CM has already assured his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik that they would be looked after and moved safely. Bihar comes as close second. Three trains have already transported workers to Bihar while one has headed for Bhubaneswar.
"We are worried about providing food and shelter to such a large number of labourers," labour minister Shivaram Hebbar told TOI.
"Once we finish the task of transporting labourers within the state, we will look into the issue of transporting labourers of other states from Karnataka. As far as labourers from Bangladesh and Nepal are concerned, the central government is looking into it. An exclusive department is handling issues related to labourers from neighbouring countries."
P Manivannan, secretary in the labor department, said, "Inter-state transportation has begun. Between May 3 and May 4, six trains headed for Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and Rajasthan with more than 7,100 workers. "We are collecting data of migrant labourers for future reference as well. The Centre will look after transportation of labourers from neighbouring countries."
Mahesh Pattar, state secretary for Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said Karnataka should follow the example of Telangana, Kerala and other states in sending back migrant workers by arranging for more trains. "The state should not delay this further. The Centre should intervene and expedite their journey home. The government must ensure free food, testing and transportation for the workers," he said.