The Gujarat High Court on Monday took suo moto notice of the various news reports about the sufferings of migrant workers, daily wage earners and the poor people during the lockdown.
"It appears that people at large are hungry. People are without any food or shelter. It seems that it is the outcome of complete lockdown. Whatever little help the poor people used to receive from the NGOs, other charitable institutions and volunteers, have come to a grinding halt. It has been reported that more than two hundred people living on the footpaths near the Ellisbridge have not had a morsel of food for the past four days. It is reported that the volunteers used to bring them food,but since the complete lockdown even that has stopped", noted a division bench comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora.
The Court reminded the that "it is the paramount duty of the State Authorities to ensure that its citizen do not go hungry".
"The situation seems to be going out of control. Although the State Government is doing its best to combat the situation, yet we find that something is wrong somewhere. It appears that there is no proper coordination amongst various departments of the State Government. What is most essential as of now is a more humane approach or touch", the Court observed.
The bench directed that necessary arrangements need to be made for the distribution of food packets all over the city of Ahmedabad, areas on the outskirts and also other parts of the State of Gujarat.
These directions were issued based on the news report published on May 11 by Ahmedabad Morror titled as "Give us food or kill us Now", which said that "more than 200 people – "daily wagers and their families – who have been living on footpaths near Ellisbridge say they haven't had a morsel to eat for the past four days, volunteers used to bring there food, but since total lockdow, even that has stopped"
Migrant workers suffering the most
The bench also took notice of the news reports about the sufferings of stranded migrant workers.
"It appears that the migrant workers are suffering the most. They are desperate to go back to their homes i.e. to their native States across the country", the Court said.
While appreciating the efforts of the the State authorities to transport the migrant workers to their respective States by way of Trains, Buses, etc, the bench said that before they are able to board the Train or a Bus they have to suffer like anything for hours together in this scorching heat of almost 45 degree.
"The State Authorities should come forward with some modalities or plans to smoothen and ease the process so that the migrant workers may not have to wait for hours and hours together before they are able to board the trains or bus", the Court directed.
Migrant Workers Cases : SC Failed To Rise To The Occasion
This direction was passed these directions based on the "The Indian Express" news item titled as "Migrant workers made to wait for 19 hours in Gujarat to board train to UP".
The Court also took note of the the news item published in the Indian Express dated 11th May 2020 titled as "Stop migrant workers walking home, take them to shelters: DGP".
This report was regarding the direction issued by the Director General of Police to stop any worker seen walking and take them to the nearest shelter home.
In this backdrop, the Court sought to know how many shelters homes are functional as on date across the State of Gujarat and at which places.
"Everyday hundreds of migrant workers with small children are to be seen at different parts of the State more particularly on the highways. Their condition is pathetic. As on date, they are living in the most inhumane and horrendous conditions. As we have observed earlier, although all the necessary steps are being taken by the State Government, yet we are of the view that few more modalities need to be worked out at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people at large", the bench observed.
Poor not afraid of COVID, but of death due to starvation
The bench further observed :
"The State Government should keep in mind that they are at present dealing with the most downtrodden, under privileged and weaker sections of the society. They are all afraid. They are not afraid of COVID19, but they are afraid that they would die due to starvation.
In such circumstances, it becomes the paramount duty of the State Government to assure and repose confidence in the downtrodden class of people that they will be taken care of in the best possible manner. It is hightime for the State Government to deal with this delicate situation very carefully and instill confidence in the minds of the people at large that they will be taken care of".
The Court has therefore requested Mr. Kamal Trivedi, the Advocate General and Ms. Manisha Lavkumar Shah, the Government Pleader to immediately discuss all the aforesaid issues with the highest authorities of the State Government and revert to the bench with some concrete plans to take care of the problems faced by the people at large as on date.
Clarifying that it would not like to interfere with the "day to day functioning" of the Government, the Court said that it wanted to ensure that the situation will not go from "bad to worse".
"In such circumstances, the judiciary will have to intervene", the Court said.
Don't lose heart, Court appeals to people of Ahmedabad
Taking note of the worsening situation of COVID-19 outbreak, the Court passed certain observations, intending to lift the morale of the people.
The Court noted that the State Government has entrusted the exclusive charge to Shri Dr. Rajeev Gupta, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment to combat with the situation prevailing in the entire city of Ahmedabad and the areas situated on the outskirts.
"We are sure that with the special skills Dr. Gupta possesses, the rich experience gained over a period of years as an I.A.S. officer and with all the ability at his command the situation in the city of Ahmedabad will soon be normal".
"We would like to convey a message to the people at large that do not lose heart. Everything that Has a Beginning Has an End. NOVEL COVID19 is not immortal. We all need to stand united and fight. People with resources should stand besides the frail, aged, needy and poor. Trust in the Almighty", the Court said in conclusion.
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