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HomeIndiaGovernanceMigrants, lockdown rules and Indira canteens have made Yediyurappa a 'U-turn' CM

Migrants, lockdown rules and Indira canteens have made Yediyurappa a ‘U-turn’ CM

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has rolled back several decisions since the lockdown kicked in 25 March, making his govt appear fractured. 

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Bengaluru: When the B.S. Yediyurappa government in Karnataka took a u-turn on its directive to halt trains for migrant workers, it was just the latest instance of the administration stepping back from its decisions regarding the Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the lockdown kicked in March, the state government has stepped back on many announcements regarding the easing of relaxations and food arrangements for the poor, among other things. The decision regarding migrant labourers, however, remains the most controversial.

Earlier this week, Monday, the Karnataka government called off the special trains organised for migrant labourers after Yediyurappa reportedly held a meeting with members of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations of India (CREDAI), which includes builders and contractors.

Amid a massive furore, the state rolled back the decision and allowed the trains to set forth Friday. However, the Karnataka government has denied allegations that the trains were stopped at the behest of the construction lobby.

Also Read: Modi got all the credit for lockdown. Now, he wants states to share risk of unlocking India

Trains for migrants

The decision to suspend the trains was reportedly taken after builders, at a meeting with the government, expressed apprehensions about a shortage of workers in light of the partial lifting of the lockdown.

Chief Minister Yediyurappa had Tuesday also appealed to migrant workers to not leave the state.

“There was no doubt that the Yediyurappa government had to bow down to the pressure of the people who felt denying migrant labourers their right to go back home was pure injustice,” said a senior BJP functionary about the decision to relaunch trains. 

“The government initially may have taken a decision to ensure that migrant labourers do not lose jobs if they go back for a long period. But the decision clearly has boomeranged,” the functionary added. 

Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai told the media Thursday that the decision to stop trains was taken as they had not received consent from the respective state governments to allow their people back into the state. 

The state’s nodal officer for inter-state travel and principal secretary, revenue, N. Manjunath Prasad said it “is true that, for two days, trains to ferry migrants were stopped”. 

“But once the decision was reversed, we have once again sought permission from various state governments for the trains to ply,” he added. “We are again following procedure by writing to state governments seeking their consent to accept migrant workers from their states. Then we will communicate this to the railways,” he said.

Asked about the apparent u-turn, Yediyurappa’s media adviser Mahadev Prakash said the CM was “responding to the woes of the people”. 

“It is not indecision on the government’s part, but the chief minister’s way of accommodating all kinds of viewpoints and responding positively towards it. It is his duty as a leader to respond to any such grievance,” he added.

Also Read: Highways are now paths for buffaloes, migrants cycling back home as lockdown continues

Lockdown relaxations

The Karnataka government has more than once retracted decisions since 25 March as it tried to weigh its cash-strapped coffers against some of the restrictions imposed by the nationwide lockdown. This even triggered reports of disagreement within the government.

On 18 April, just hours after announcing that the IT-BT sector can resume operations with a 33 per cent workforce and two-wheelers can ply, Yediyurappa rolled back the decision. Reason cited — public opinion. 

“In the backdrop of public opinion and after discussions with senior officials, it has been decided that the prohibition on two-wheelers will continue throughout the lockdown period. In the IT-BT sector, only essential services will be allowed and the work-from-home policy will continue,” the government said in a statement. 

Party insiders say that the initial decision was taken at a meeting held by Yediyurappa with just two ministers — Home Minister Bommai and Revenue Minister R. Ashok. But, sources added, many other ministers in his government disapproved of this decision as they felt easing the lockdown was not advisable at the time. 

Indira canteen reversal

On 23 March, Yediyurappa announced that the state-run ‘Indira canteens’ would provide free food to all daily-wage workers and poor people in the state during the lockdown period.  

In less than 24 hours, the government reversed its order and closed down all the canteens, saying the large gatherings on the premises were a violation of social-distancing guidelines.  

On 3 April, the state government decided to reopen the canteens for paid meals. Karnataka’s Covid-19 spokesperson and minister Suresh Kumar told reporters at the time that the government had been distributing free rations to the needy, so the services at Indira canteens would be charged. 

Buses for migrant workers

Earlier this month, the Karnataka government decided to generate revenue by plying buses for migrant workers looking to return home at double the fare. However, the Yediyurappa government rescinded the decision as it came under fire for charging labourers who had already been left jobless by the lockdown. The government then provided free bus travel for all migrant labourers who wished to return home for three days.

Also Read: ‘At least Modi is feeding us’ — migrants, poor say lockdown is tough but give PM a thumbs up


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