The Supreme Court, hearing the migrant crisis on Friday, said it intends to give 15 days to the Centre and states to transport all migrant labourers to their native places and asked receiving states to list all the steps taken to provide jobs to them.
Hearing the suo moto petition on the plight of migrants amidst the Coronavirus lockdown, the apex court also briefed states on the matter.
The apex court told states to get all migrant labourers registered at block and district-level and added that states will have to generate employment for them and also facilitate their movement if they want to go back to other states for work.
The court stressed that all states will have to take care of the migrants.
“What we intend to do is we will give you and the states 15 days’ time to transport all migrants. All states will bring on record how they will provide employment and other kind of relief. There should be registration of the migrants,” the Supreme Court said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, told the top court that more than 4,200 Shramik Special trains have run till June 3 to send over 1 crore migrants to their home states.
The Centre added that Maharashtra has only asked for one train to which the top court wondered why a state with a very bad situation has just asked for a single train so far.
Meanwhile, SG Tushar Mehta also opposed all intervention applications in the matter. “Leave it to the Centre and states. But those who haven’t contributed anything in COVID-19 can’t be allowed to make submissions,” said Mehta.
The National Human Rights Commission had approached the Supreme Court seeking a slew of directions, including to be a part of the hearing.
Meanwhile, the states briefed the court on the number of special trains and transported migrants.
Delhi told the court that not a single migrant was charged for railway fare and the government has paid Rs 9 crore in advance to the Railways. As many as 4 lakh migrants have returned to their natives and only 10,000 remain to leave.
Senior lawyer P Narasimha, representing Uttar Pradesh government, told the court that the state has not charged the labourers at any point of time. “1664 Shramik Special trains were organized in an extraordinary measure and 21.69 lakh people were brought back,” he said.
He added that buses did over 10,000 trips to take 5.50 lakh migrant workers from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh.
Former solicitor general and senior Supreme Court lawyer Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Bihar, said that around 28 lakh people have returned to Bihar. He added that the state government is taking all steps to provide employment to the returnees.
Kerala, on its part, told the top court that it does not want to pay for the transportation of migrants to other states while citing floods and other incidents.
The Central government had told the Supreme Court that Kerala has not been paying for the fares and that it is the receiving state that has been paying.
Rajasthan government requested the court for 15 days to send all migrant workers back home.
Meanwhile, senior lawyer Indira Jaising has requested the top court to quash all FIRs against migrant workers for violating lockdown conditions by stepping out of houses, proceeding on foot or by cycles. The apex court said that it will consider the request.
The Supreme Court has reserved its order on the issue for Tuesday.
On May 28, the Supreme Court 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.
The court also directed the state governments to “speed up” the registration of migrant workers wanting to go to their native states.
The court then 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.