In a momentous step, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took Suo Motu cognisance of the problems and miseries of migrant labourers who have been stranded in different parts of the country amid the Coronavirus-induced lockdown.
"We take suo motu cognisance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country. The newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of the migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances"- Supreme Court of India
Vide a suo motu order titled "IN RE: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers" the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul & MR Shah state that even though the issue is being addressed at both State and Central levels, "effective and concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation".
In light of the above, Top Court has issued notices to the Government of India as well as all State Governments and Union Territories to submit their responses and to look into the urgency of the issue.
"This court has also received several letters and representations from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The crises of migrant labourers is even continuing today with large sections still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders. The adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters are immediately to be provided by the Centre and State Governments free of costs" - SC
Apropos this, the Court has directed the petition to be taken up day-after-tomorrow, i.e. May 28, 2020 and the assistance of the Solicitor General has been sought in this regard.
The order states,
"We direct the Suo Motu petition to be taken up day after tomorrow and we request the Solicitor General to assist the court and by the next date of hearing, bring in the notice of the court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard"
Highlighting that this section of society "needs succour" and "help by the concerned Governments", court noted that steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State Governments & Union Territories in this difficult ordeal.
After the lockdown was imposed on March 23 by PM Narendra Modi on account of the Coronavirus pandemic, migrant workers across the country were left in dire states as they lost their livelihood and means to subsist.
The lockdown period has witnessed a wave of reverse-migration of thousands of migrant workers from metros to villages. There were reports of migrants, who were left without work after the lockdown, walking hundreds of kilometers on foot to reach their native places, owing to lack of transportation facilities. At least 22 persons have lost their lives reportedly, while trying to get home during the lockdown.
When reports of the severity of the migrant crisis began coming to the fore, several PIL's were filed by in the Supreme Court seeking directions to protect, safeguard and uplift the labourers.
However, the Top Court had refused to intervene, taking note of the Centre's stand that the Government was doing enough to allay the plight of migrants.
On March 31, The Supreme Court had observed that the migration of large number of labourers working in the cities in the wake of the national lockdown was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lockdown would continue for more than three months. On the same day, bench had also called for humane approach by police and authorities towards inter-state workers, having regard to their unfortunate situation.
"The anxiety and fear of the migrants should be understood by the Police and other authorities. As directed by the Union of India, they should deal with the migrants in a humane manner." - Court had noted.
Recently, visuals of the Aurangabad train tragedy killing 16 migrant workers were heavily reported. As per reports, they were walking along the rail lines to their native places, and fell asleep on the tracks due to exhaustion.
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