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Permit Migrant Workers, Who Have Tested Negative For COVID, To Return To Native Places : Plea In SC

Mehal Jain
18 April 2020 10:02 AM GMT
Permit Migrant Workers, Who Have Tested Negative For COVID,  To Return To Native Places : Plea In SC
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A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court for enforcement of the Fundamental Right to Life of the lakhs of migrant workers stranded across the country, seeking a direction to the centre and the states to arrange for their safe travel to their hometowns and villages. The petitioners, Mr. Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former Dean, IIM-Ahmedabad and Mr. Gaurav Jain, advocate, have prayed that, in view...

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A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court for enforcement of the Fundamental Right to Life of the lakhs of migrant workers stranded across the country, seeking a direction to the centre and the states to arrange for their safe travel to their hometowns and villages.

The petitioners, Mr. Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former Dean, IIM-Ahmedabad and Mr. Gaurav Jain, advocate, have prayed that, in view of the extension of the lockdown, necessary transport services be provided to the workers stranded in the different states who wish to return to their home.

The petitioner, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, avers that the migrant workers, who are amongst the worst affected category of people due to the ongoing- lockdown, must be allowed to go back to their homes after being tested for COVID-19.

"Those who test negative for COVID-19 must not be forcefully kept in shelters or away from their homes and families against their wishes...the respondents should allow for their safe travel to their hometowns and villages and provide necessary transportation for the same", it is submitted. It is advanced that there is a large number of migrant workers who wish to go back to their native villages to live with their families, and the same was evident from the sudden rush in the wake of the initial 21-days national lockdown announced on March 24 that led to uncontrollable chaos at various bus terminals.

There were instances of tragic deaths of many such migrant workers who were left with no option but to travel hundreds of kilometres to their native places by foot. Recently, there have been media reports which show that migrant workers are protesting on streets in some places due to non-payment of their wages and demanding to return to their native villages. There have been cases of the migrant workers being harassed by the local residents and even beaten "Although the national lockdown has been necessitated because of the unprecedented pandemic of COVID- '19 and its imposition is much needed, it is submitted by the Petitioners herein that the fundamental right of the migrant workers enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) [right to move freely throughout the territory of lndial and Article 19(1 )(e) of the Constitution of lndia [right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of lndia] cannot be suspended for an indefinite period forcing these migrant workers to stay away from their families and living in unpredictable and arduous conditions, as the same is an unreasonable restriction beyond what is envisaged under Article 19(5) of the Constitution of lndia", iterates the plea.

Moreover, it is argued that as this extension of lockdown is casting an unreasonable and heavier burden on the migrant workers who are stranded in cities of their migration as compared to those who are living with their own families at their own residences, the same is also violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of lndia.

Besides, it is contended that Article 21 of the Constitution of lndia also envisages the right to live with dignity and the same is being denied to these migrant workers. "ln view of the said facts and circumstances, it is submitted by the Petitioners herein that, now, when the second period of nationwide lockdown has been announced for a period of 15.04.2020 to 03.05.2020, the state authorities must arrange for the safe travel of those migrant workers who wish to go back to their native villages and hometowns in other states", reads the petition.

For this purpose, it is prayed that necessary transport services may be provided by the state governments in abundance so that the purpose of 'social distancing' is not defeated. Suitable arrangements have also been sought for testing for COVID-19 of all those migrant workers who wish to travel to their native places, either in the state of their departure or in the state of their arrival.

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