"This Court notices that hundreds of migrant labours with their children and baggage are walking on the National Highways... If at this stage, this Court does not react and pass these orders, this Court would be falling in its role as a protector and alleviator of suffering. Their pain has to be alleviated at this stage."
Taking note of the miserable state of migrant labours in the state who have been forced to undertake kilometers long journey on foot due to the lockdown, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday issued directions to ensure availability of basic amenities to the walking migrants.
The court emphasized that if it did not react and pass orders at this stage, it would be falling in its role as a "protector and alleviator of suffering". Accordingly, a division bench of Justice DVSS Somayajulu and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti ordered the Government to ensure proper availability of food, toilets and medical help etc. for these migrants.
The Court observed :
"This Court notices that the labour who have left their ancestral homes and villages and moved to the cities for better livelihood to ensure that all of us live in comfort are on the roads today. They represent the people who are working in hundreds of different trades, callings etc., and all of them together ensure that we lead a happy and comfortable life. If at this stage, this Court does not react and pass these orders, this Court would be falling in its role as a protector and alleviator of suffering. Their pain has to be alleviated at this stage. The ever expanding scope of "life" under Article 21 of the Constitution of India will take into account this situation also. They deserve more help particularly when they are trekking back with their heads high instead of living at someone's mercy".
The bench took note of "disturbing news reports" about the plight of migrants. It referred to a report in "Eenadu" that in a period of 24 hours between 13.05.2020 and 14.05.2020, 1300 people have passed one check post on walk or with cycles. Another 1000 of them have gone in lorries and in other transport vehicles. The Court also referred to reports which indicated that a woman has given birth when she was walking from Nasik to Sathani on the road. Further, this report also indicated that two hours after the delivery, the woman started walking and continued to walk for 150 kms. The National Human Rights Commission has taken note of this. Reports also indicated that ambulances are charging Rs.8,000/- in Mumbai even for moving a small distance.
'It's A Pity To See Migrant Labourers Walking' : Madras HC Seeks Action Taken Report From Centre & State On Migrants Relief [Read Order]
The Court observed that the situation was "alarming" and that "immediate intervention" of the Court was necessary.
In this backdrop, the bench observed
"The summer heat, particularly in the State of Andhra Pradesh is growing and despite the summer, this Court notices that hundreds of migrant labours with their children and baggage are walking on the National Highways. The State Government has come out with certain measures and as per the reports, at a distance of every 50 kms., a food counters is located to help the moving migrant. Relief centres are also statedly established. But in view of what is stated above, this is of the opinion that following supplemental measures are to be taken on priority and with immediate effect"
Particularly, with regard to the walking migrants, the court has directed that:
In addition to the above, the court has directed that:
The court further suggested that the State Government must seek help from the voluntary organisations and also from the companies/ firms etc., as part of their CSR activity, to provide food free of cost to these moving migrants.
A compliance report of the above directions has to be filed before the court by, with clear details of the shelters and services provided, by May 22, 2020.
Before parting, the bench clarified that the issue of quarantine is left at the disposal of the State Government and this Order will not come in the way of the State taking a decision in any individual's case that he should be quarantined or should be stopped from travelling.
On Friday, the Madras HC suo moto sought an action taken report from the State Government and the Centre on the steps taken for the relief of migrants.
"It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers", observed the HC bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha.
Recently, the Karnataka HC had directed the Centre and the State Government to take steps to ensure that no migrant is deprived of an opportunity to travel back to native place on account of incapacity to pay rail fare.
The Gujarat HC on Monday had taken suo moto notice of the migrants issue, observing that many are going hungry and are suffering the worst on account of lockdown.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a plea seeking relief for migrants walking on road.
"How can we stop them from walking? It is impossible for this Court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking?", the bench orally observed while dismissing an application seeking urgent directions to all DMs across India to identify walking labourers and to ensure that they reach their native places, free of cost and in a dignified manner.
Case Title: K. Ramakrishna v. Union of India
Case No.: WP PIL No. 101/2020
Quorum: Justice DVSS Somayajulu and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti
Click here to download order