The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court all migrants had been shifted to the nearest available shelters as they pose a risk of spreading the Coronavirus infection if they return to their native places.
He said there are no migrant workers on roads “as of 11 am today”, all have been put up in shelters.
To this, Chief Justice SA Bobde said, “You will ensure that all those whose migration you have stopped are taken care of in terms of food, shelter, nourishment and medical aid.”
The Supreme Court stressed upon the importance of allaying the fears of the migrants.
“We want to impress upon you that the panic will destroy more lives than the virus. You need counsellors. You can have bhajan, kirtan, namaz or whatever but you have to give strength to the people,” the top court said and urged the Government to rope in leaders of all faiths to counsel the migrants in shelters.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta immediately made a commitment saying, “I am making statement here that within 24 hours we will mobilise trained counselors and religious leaders. We will mobilise religious leaders, maulvis, sadhus to counsel them to stay calm.” He also said that over 22 lakh 88 thousand people, which include needy persons, migrants and daily wagers, are being provided food by different governments in the country.
Mehta further told the apex court that the Government was satisfied with its efforts to contain the spread of the infection.
The Supreme Court had on Monday observed that fear and panic was becoming “a bigger problem than the Coronavirus”, but stopped short of passing any order and sought a report from the Government by Tuesday.
Hearing two separate PILs which sought relief, including food, water, medicines and proper medical facilities, for thousands of migrant workers who are rendered homeless and jobless due to the lockdown, a bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao said said before passing any direction, it would like to wait for the status report from the centre.
In his petition, Alakh Alok Srivastava had asked the Government to provide food, water and shelter for migrant workers and their families, who were walking on foot to their villages amid the lockdown.
Mehta told the court that the Centre, as well as the state governments were taking the necessary steps to mitigate the situation.
Following this, the apex court told the petitioner that it will deal with everything but not with what the government was already doing.
“We were noticing that your petition had prayers, some go which has already been taken care of by the government,” CJI said.
“We want to go through the government’s affidavit, which it has to file, and then we may hear it,” he added.
The petition came a day after chaotic scenes were witnessed at Delhi’s Anand Vihar Bus Terminal as thousands of migrant workers rushed to board buses for their hometowns.
Since a 21-day lockdown has been imposed in the country, thousands of migrant workers in the national capital and in other major cities are stranded with no jobs, shelter and money to survive.
Over the weekend, many buses were provided in the national capital for such migrant workers to their hometowns in UP and Bihar.
However, the Government later issued a circular asking the states to shut their borders to ensure the proper observation of lockdown. It also directed a 14-day mandatory quarantine for such migrant workers.