The Karnataka High Court on Thursday pulled up the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for not putting in systematic efforts to ascertain how many migrants, homeless people and stranded people are on the streets or are squatting on public places such as below the flyovers, in Bengaluru city.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna which is hearing a bunch of petitions through video conferencing, had on April 7, directed BBMP to take immediate steps to set up shelters for migrant workers and to ensure that all facilities are made available to them.
The direction followed submissions made by counsel for Karnataka State Legal Aid Services Authority (KSLASA) about disturbing features of the status of the migrant workers in the city of Bengaluru. It was found that more than 2000 persons had assembled in and around Majestic Railway Station and Balepet Circle.
Senior advocate B.V.Shankaranarayana Rao, appeared for the corporation and submitted a report signed by the Municipal Commissioner which indicated that only 100 people were found in and around Majestic. To which the court said "The least we expected was that after the order dated 7th April 2020 was communicated to BBMP, appropriate officers will immediately contact the Member Secretary of the DLSA and make a joint visit to the spot. That has not been done. After having perused the report, we find that there is no real effort made by BBMP to address the issue."
On Thursday, counsel for KSLSA stated that at 9.30 a.m, when she was passing by the area about 60 to 70 people were found standing in the same locality. Moreover, on Wednesday night, the Member Secretary of DLSA visited Mahadevapura area and found that a large number of people including children had taken shelter under Mahadevapura flyover and some of them were getting food from NGOs.
In response BBMP submitted a document to the court stating that there are 13 shelters established for the migrants and others having capacity of 652 and about 451 people have been accommodated therein at present.
However, as per report submitted by the Member Secretary of the DLSA of Bengaluru Urban District recording that out of 8 BBMP Zones, except in West Zone where there are 3 camps specified in the said report, no other shelter homes have been established by BBMP for the benefit of the migrants. KSLSA, counsel also pointed that 3 shelters along with a shelter at Goods Shed Road which are incorporated in the list of 13 shelters are already existing and these are not the new shelters which are established by BBMP.
To which the bench said, "The report dated 7th April 2020 creates a serious doubt whether there are 13 newly established shelters for migrants, homeless people etc., within the limits of BBMP. We direct BBMP to clarify this aspect by submitting a report in writing on or before 13th April 2020."
The court reminded the civic body that nearly 1/3rd of the total positive cases of coronavirus in the entire State are from Bengaluru Urban District. Apart from performing the mandatory duties of BBMP under clauses (29), (30) and (31) of Section 58 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, by taking measures to protect the citizens who are affected by the calamity, it is also necessary for BBMP to ensure that the migrants, homeless and stranded people who are on the streets or who are squatting on the public property are accommodated in the shelters with a view to ensure that all of them maintain social distancing.
The bench suggested to BBMP that "Some measures will have to be taken in respect of the workers on the sites of public projects which are large in number within the limits of BBMP to ensure that the workers follow safety measures. Even under clause (22) of Section 58 of the said Act of 1976, it is the obligatory duty of BBMP to prevent and check the spread of the dangerous diseases. Unless the issue of migrant workers, homeless people and people stranded on the streets is properly taken care of, we fail to understand how BBMP will perform its statutory and mandatory duties and functions under clauses (22), (29), (30) and (31) of Section 58 of the said Act of 1976."
The court directed Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department to issue appropriate directions to BBMP. To ensure that all the measures undertaken by the State Government are implemented within the limits of BBMP.
State Told To Make Available Masks and Sanitizers.
Counsel for KSLSA tendered a report dated 8th April which records that Primary Health Centres (PHCs) at four places in Yadgir District, were manned only by nurses and a few staff members. The duty doctors were absent. They were undergoing training. No masks and sanitizers were supplied to the staff of PHCs.
The bench said "The State Government needs to take care by ensuring that masks and sanitizers are made available at the grass-root level in PHCs and other public health facilities."
The state government informed the court that the requirement of procuring N-95 masks, Triple Layer masks, PPE Kits and sanitizers based on projections as per the contingency plan and the requirement of these materials is being worked out. The State Government is working on the estimated projection of 10,000 COVID-19 cases till the end of April 2020.
The bench said "There is a lot of shortfall of N-95 masks, Triple layer masks and PPE kits. The State has pointed out that the manufacture of sanitizers has been increased to more than 50,000 litres per day. If that be so, all that the State needs to ensure is equitable distribution and availability of sanitizers to the medical and paramedical workers as well as to the citizens."
Tablighi Jamaat Members Quarantined
In its written submission the State informed the court that 50 foreign Tablighi Jamaat members were traced in the State and they have been placed in institutional quarantine. The AGA during the hearing on instructions informed that the number has gone up to 57 members. Further, it is stated that 269 Indian Nationals who attended the event have been identified in Bengaluru City and have been quarantined.
A total of 482 Indian Nationals who attended the event during the crucial period have been identified in other parts of the State and all of them have been quarantined in the respective districts. Thus a total 808 persons have been identified and quarantined. It is also pointed out that 581 members of Tablighi Jamaat who are from the State of Karnataka have been identified to be in other States and the respective States have been accordingly informed.
Food Security: Consider Providing Ration to deprived persons based on identity proof
The court reiterated that during the lockdown, large sections of the citizens have been adversely affected and are deprived of food. Moreover, there may be a category of people like persons who have been deprived of their daily earnings. Many of the people belonging to this marginalized category may not be having the ration cards.
Justice Oka said "Therefore, as directed under the order dated 30th March 2020, the State Government shall immediately take a decision on the question of providing the ration to this category of citizens on production of an authenticated proof of identity. While the State Government takes its decision, it will have to bear in mind that those who belong to the marginalized category may not be in a position to pay for the ration."
The court referred to a news report published in newspaper "The Hindu" in which the Chief Minister has made a statement that that free ration will be supplied to those who are not possessing BPL cards. The bench said "The State Government must immediately address itself to the issue of supplying the ration on the basis of the identity documents and the issue of supplying the ration free of cost to those who cannot afford to pay for the ration but are not having the BPL cards."