"The indifference exhibited by the haves, to the plight of these have nots who are forced to walk for miles together without food and water (during peak summer when several parts of the country are seeing a record surge in day temperature), is extremely disturbing."
The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday expressed deep dissatisfaction on the measures being taken by both the Central as well as the State Government to bring back the migrants who are stranded in various parts of the country, amid the lockdown.
On a perusal of the progress made so far in this direction the bench comprising of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe remarked,
"Failure to take immediate steps to provide adequate transportation facilities, and to introduce more trains and buses, to ply these unfortunate victims, who have lost all means of livelihood during this COVID-19 pandemic, back to their homes, would only result in their continuing to walk thousands of miles, without food, to reach their homes. The indifference exhibited by the haves, to the plight of these have nots who are forced to walk for miles together without food and water (during peak summer when several parts of the country are seeing a record surge in day temperature), is extremely disturbing. The lackadaisical approach adopted, to ameliorate the plight of these miserable lot, does not show the administration, both at the Centre and in the State, in good light."
The bench was informed that around 2.3 lakh stranded migrant workers had registered themselves to be brought back to the State of Uttarakhand from different parts of the country. Of these, 1,29,000 workers had already come back, leaving around one lakh remaining to be brought back to the State.
To facilitate the same, Chief Standing Counsel Paresh Tripathi submitted that more than 1000 buses are being plied by the State Government to transport stranded migrant workers from other States to their respective destinations in the State of Uttarakhand.
Similarly, Assistant Solicitor General Rakesh Thapliyal appearing for the Central Government told the bench that from June 1 onwards, one train would run from Amritsar to Haridwar and back; and another train would run daily from New Delhi to Haridwar and Dehradun and back; and, in all, around 2000 passengers would be transported by train each day.
Dissatisfied with the transportation arrangement, the bench said,
"Transporting merely 2000 persons by train per day would require at least 50 days, from the 01st of June, to bring back the remaining one lakh stranded persons from different parts of the country to the State of Uttarakhand during which period they would continue to suffer from lack of food, water and shelter."
The remarks have been made in a PIL filed by former Minister and MLA Preetam Singh Panwar, urging the Court to preserve the right to life with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of the migrant workers, and to direct the state to bring them back without any further delay.
The court observed that "greater urgency" needs to be shown, by both the Centre and the State to bring back these stranded workers who are walking back to their respective homes in the State of Uttarakhand, by a proper and decent mode of transportation.
"The indifference exhibited by the haves, to the plight of these have nots who are forced to walk for miles together without food and water (during peak summer when several parts of the country are seeing a record surge in day temperature), is extremely disturbing," it said.
The court also expressed concern regarding walking migrants as the temperature in some parts of the country has risen beyond 45 degree Celsius and that may result in a large number of those, walking back to their homes, suffering from fatal heat strokes.
It observed that immediate measures should to be taken by the Government to provide the migrants' with drinking water, food and shelter, enroute till they are transported to their respective destinations within the State.
However, the court did not pass any particular direction in the matter and asked the Central Government to file a report on this aspect by May 29.
"While the inadequate response of the authorities, to their plight, is extremely disconcerting, we accede to the request of the learned Assistant Solicitor General, and defer hearing of this Writ Petition till 29.05.2020 awaiting receipt of the Government of India's report, to enable us to pass a comprehensive order on that day," the court directed.
Case Title: Preetam Singh Panwar v. Union of India & Ors.
Case No.: WP No. 62/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe
Appearance: Advocate SK Mandal (for Petitioner); Assistant Solicitor General (for Union of India); Chief Standing Counsel Paresh Tripathi, assisted by Standing Counsel Anil Kumar Bisht and Vikas Pande and Advocates Suyash Pant, BPS Mer, VS Rawat and SS Chaudhary (for State of Uttarakhand)
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