The Supreme Court on Thursday issued interim orders regarding the migrant crisis across the country, two days after it took suo motu cognizance of problems faced by the labourers who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus outbreak.
Dictating the orders, the apex court said that no train or bus fare should be charged from migrants travelling back to their homes.
It directed that the migrant workers should be provided food by the concerned state and UT at places. During train journey, originating states will have to provide meal and water.
“All migrants who are stranded shall be provided food by the concerned state at places publicized and notified to them so that they can meet both ends. While they wait for turn to board train or bus, they can survive this way,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court also directed state governments to add the details regarding migrant workers awaiting transportation in their replies before the apex court. The details demanded by the bench are number of migrants awaiting transportation to native places, plan for transportation, mechanism of registration and other requisite details.
“State shall oversee the registration of migrants and states are ensure that after registration, they are made to board transport as early as possible,” Live Law quoted the Supreme Court as saying.
The court also directed the state governments to “speed up” the registration of migrant workers wanting to go to their native states.
“States shall speed up registration of migrant workers and build help desks near places where they are stranded, where they would be ask to board bus or trains at an early date. Complete information needs to be publicized so that migrants are aware of this,” Bar and Bench quoted the top court as saying.
The top court further stated that if migrant workers are found on foot by any state authority, they should be “taken to shelters immediately and provided with food and all facilities”.
The Supreme Court finally asked the Centre and state governments to file their replies regarding the suo motu hearing over the migrant crisis by June 5.
The interim orders on food and fare comes in the backdrop of several deaths being reported onboard Shramik Special trains reportedly due to lack of food and water during the journeys.
The Supreme Court had taken cognizance of the matter after several petitions were filed in the top court highlighting the plight of migrant workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
“In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of society needs succor and help by governments, especially steps need to be taken by the government of India, state governments/Union Territories in this difficult situation to extend helping hand to these migrant labourers,” said the top court in a hearing on Tuesday.
Issuing notice to the Centre and all states/Union Territories, the top court asked them to submit their responses looking into the urgency of the matter.
Earlier, during the hearing, senior Advocate Indira Jaising submitting arguments in the case, urged the Supreme Court to pass order on migrant crisis today.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, had today informed the top court that so far 91 lakh labourers have been shifted to their native places since the Shramik Special trains started on May 1 – 80 per cent of these migrants being from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
“This is an unprecedented crisis and we are taking unprecedented measures,” Mehta said.
The Centre further asserted that it would not stop its efforts or the train service “till even a single migrant remains”.
According to Live Law, Tushar Mehta told the court that the mechanism of transporting migrants is working at state levels.
“So [the Centre] will have to get feedback from the states,” he said and added, “I am not shifting responsibility. All states are working in tandem.”
The Solicitor General told the apex court that the Centre is doing a lot to contain the Coronavirus outbreak, but there are “Prophets of Doom in our country who only spread negativity, negativity, negativity”.
“These armchair intellectuals do not recognise the nation’s efforts,” he added.
On being asked by the Supreme Court to provide an estimation of time needed to transport all migrants, Mehta said the states would be in a better position to determine that.
Mehta further said that migrant workers started leaving for their home states on foot because they were “locally instigated”.
Amid the nationwide lockdown, thousands of daily wagers and other migrants have undertaken epic journeys to reach home — walking, cycling and hitching rides when they could — in the absence of any public transport.
The unprecedented move to stem the spread of COVID-19 triggered possibly the biggest movement of people since Partition.
Several migrant workers have lost their lives in road accidents while travelling back to their homes.