All states must create jobs for migrants: Supreme Court
With almost 90% of migrant workers having returned to their hometowns or villages after the lockdown enforced for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) on March 25, the Supreme Court on Friday set out on its next task of asking states to prepare a roadmap for providing jobs to the returnees.
Reserving its order until Tuesday on the transport of stranded migrant workers, a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah broadly indicated that its order will require states to inform the apex court, which has taken suo moto cognisance of the matter, about schemes for providing employment to migrant workers who have returned to their home towns.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta informed the Court that around 10 million migrant workers had been transported to their destinations in 4,228 Shramik Special trains between May 1 and June 3.
On the deaths of some workers aboard the trains, Mehta informed the court that Indian Railways, in its investigations, had found that these deaths occurred because of comorbidities and not for lack of water, food or medical care.
The maximum number of trains ended up in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and some 171 trains are scheduled to run in the coming days to transport the remaining migrant workers who remain stranded. Mehta said 90% of migrant workers had returned to their destinations and based on demand from the states, trains will be provided within a short notice period of 24 hours.
The bench indicated that it would not prolong the issue concerning transportation and would be fixing a deadline of 15 days for states to inform it of the number of workers who are still stranded and the trains required for their travel back home. The court heard the states make their submissions on whether they had prepared a list of migrants who had returned and the measures being undertaken to provide them employment opportunities.
“We propose that all states should put on record what scheme they have prepared for providing employment to these workers who have come. We would also like a district-wise or village-wise data on who has come in and from where.” The Court proposes to include this in its June 9 order.
Bihar was the only state which had done something on the matter. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the state, informed the court that in all, 2.8 million migrants had returned and no more are stranded in any states. The state has undertaken skill mapping of those workers who returned and have so far covered 1 million people. A process to provide them skilled or unskilled work has started.
Uttar Pradesh, which received 2.17 million migrant workers through 1,664 Shramik trains, claimed that the state had not charged the workers for their travel expenses and food. The court told UP that now that the workers had returned to their villages, counselling centres could be opened at district or block levels to provide information to workers who wished to return to their workplaces. Kerala was the only state which informed the court of its inability to pay for the fare of migrant workers. But the bench directed the state to make the payment.
Delhi claimed that about 300,000 migrants had exited the capital while close to 200,000 still remain. Most among them do not plan to return, said additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for Delhi. Maharashtra informed the court that 1.1 million migrant workers had left the state and some 38,000 remain. West Bengal stated before the court that it does not have data on migrant workers who intend to reach the state. Citing a rough estimate, the state counsel informed the bench that roughly 600,000 persons are still to return.
Solicitor general Mehta informed the court that West Bengal had requested 17 trains and Maharashtra has indicated demand for one train Mehta told the court that the present system of registration, transportation and quarantine system for migrant workers should be continued.