The Bombay High Court on Wednesday while hearing PILs highlighting the plight of migrant workers stranded in the State amidst the nationwide lockdown implemented to combat Covid-19, observed that it is obvious some of the migrants must be facing problems but unless a survey regarding the health condition of the stranded workers/labourers is conducted and appropriate decision is taken by the State or Central government, positive directions in this regard cannot be issued.
Justice RK Deshpande made the observations after Advocate General of Maharashtra AA Kumbhakoni informed the bench that the Supreme Court seized the matter of Inter-State as well as Intra-State migrant workers. The matter is fixed before the apex Court on April 20, 2020.
Yesterday, several migrant workers/labourers gathered around Bandra station area and the streets of Mumbra in Thane district allegedly demanding to be allowed to travel back to their native places since they had run out of food and other essentials due to the lockdown.
Court made certain suggestions in respect of the Intra-State migrant workers, to the Advocate General. Justice Deshpande stated that if the migrant workers are permitted to travel to their places or destinations/homes within the State, that would ease out the burden on the administration, where such workers are stranded.
Another suggestion was that before permitting the Intra-State migrants to travel to their destinations or homes, medical examinations should be conducted so that the dreaded disease is not spread in the rural areas, which presently remains unaffected.
AG Kumbhakoni assured the Court that these aspects shall be looked into and will be taken into consideration by the State level Committee and appropriate measures shall be taken.
Another grievance which needs to be addressed is regarding the response to the complaints of the migrant workers, who are stranded at a particular place. If the grievance redressal mechanism at the Taluka level is provided and if it immediately responds to the complaints about non-availability of water, sanitation, food, shelter, etc. that can be taken care of, Court noted.
AG Kumbhakoni assured the Court that the Taluka level Committees shall look into the grievance of the migrant workers and appropriate response shall be immediately provided.
Stating that no directions can be passed at this stage as the apex court is already dealing with the issue, Court observed-
"The problem of COVID-19 is not restricted to this country but it pertains to infection which has spread all over the entire world. The Inter-State migration of the workers and the labourers is the issue which is to be tackled by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government and this is what is made known through the address by the Honourable Prime Minister of India to the nation. The Apex Court is also dealing with the issue. There is no propriety for this Court, at this stage, to issue any directions. It is a matter which is being dealt with by the Executive and this Court is confident that the issues shall be more appropriately and properly addressed by the Committees so constituted."
In response to the earlier order passed by the Court, an affidavit was filed on behalf of the State showing compliance and the steps which are proposed to be taken.
Finally, the Court said-
"Obviously, some of the stranded workers must be facing problems but presently, unless a survey is conducted and an appropriate decision is taken by the State Government or the Central Government, as the case may be, it is not possible to issue any positive directions."
The said PILs also raise concerns about the state of slum dwellers and homeless persons during the lockdown period, but AG Kumbhakoni was unable to make any statement in this regard. However, the complaints can be addressed to by the Committees, which are already constituted.
Thus, Court directed the registry to list the matter in the first week of May, awaiting a survey report of the State Government and also any further orders to be passed by the Apex Court.
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