‘Taking unprecedented steps’: Centre to Supreme Court on migrant workers
The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it has sent 97 lakh migrant workers home since May 1, further underlining that it has taken “unprecedented steps” to meet this “unprecedented crisis”.
“This is an unprecedented crisis and we are taking unprecedented measures,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court during a hearing on migrant labourers’ situation amid Covid-19 lockdown.
The top court remarked that stranded migrant workers who want to travel back to their home states should not be stopped.
“When a migrant worker wishes to go to a state, no state can say that we will not take you,” a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan remarked while hearing a suo motu case initiated by it on migrant labourers.
The court also remarked that the government should work out a timeframe within which migrant workers desirous of returning to their home states can be transported. During the interim period, food and other facilities should be provided, Justice Ashok Bhushan said.
Giving a break-up of the numbers, the government told the apex court that 50 lakh migrants have been moved to their homes by Shramik Specials between May 1 and 27. Another 41 lakh workers were sent via road, the government added.
“Ninety seven lakh migrants have been transported since May 1,” said Mehta.
The Solicitor General said details of all stranded migrants can be obtained only when the states provide that information, adding that over 80 percent of those workers who have been sent home are from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“Let the states reply and then you will have an overall view. Don’t let stray incidents impact the hearing,” he said.
Earlier today, speaking at Congress’ ‘SpeakUp’ campaign, party president Sonia Gandhi underscored how the country is witnessing a “dard ka manzar (immense pain)” as migrant workers are trudging the highways, many among them bare foot, to get home amid the Covid-19 lockdown. She accused the Central government of being oblivious to the plight of these poor people.
On Tuesday, the top court had issued notices to the Centre and the state governments, saying there have been “inadequacies and certain lapses” on their part in dealing with the migrant workers’ situation.
Media reports, the court order said, had been “continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers” walking on-foot and cycles from long distances.