Bengaluru, May 3, 2020: In a relief for thousands of migrant workers in Karnataka longing to travel back to their native places in the state amid the coronavirus lockdown, the BS Yediyurappa government Sunday announced free travel on state-run buses for the next three days.
“Workers and poor wage laborers have been allowed to travel in KSRTC buses free of charge from district centers and capital city Bengaluru to their hometowns in Karnataka for three days from today (Sunday),” a statement from the Karnataka Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) read.
To the delight of thousands of such workers waiting at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda Bus Stand (Majestic) on Sunday, the announcements were made through public announcement systems in the terminal.
On Saturday, the government had announced that it would charge only one-way fare.
“Only one-way fare will be collected and not two-way fare. Earlier, the bus transport facility was considered as a contract carriage since only 30 passengers were being allowed. It has now been decided to collect only one-way fare and the labour department will bear the remaining cost,” Karnataka Education Minister Suresh Kumar had said.
The state government had drawn widespread criticism for demanding inflated fares from migrant workers for their travel back home to rural areas in the state from cities as 60-seat buses would carry 30 passengers for physical distancing and return vacant.
For instance, labourers alleged that for a 500-km trip to Bagalkot district in north Karnataka, KSRTC demanded around Rs 1,300 from each passenger, over four times more than the regular fare of Rs 300.
However, even after the CM’s repeated requests to maintain social distancing in public places, norms continued to be compromised at the bus stand on Sunday, with few people around to control the crowds.