‘No fare to be charged from stranded migrants, railways to give food during journey’: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Centre to ensure free travel to stranded migrants to their home states by trains and buses even as the government contended that it is taking “unprecedented steps” to meet the challenging crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown.
A three-judge bench asked the solicitor general Tushar Mehta about the confusion over payment of travel fare of stranded migrant workers and said that they should not made to pay for their journey back home.
“What is the normal time? If a migrant is identified, there must be some certainty that he will be shifted out within one week or ten days at most? What is that time? There had been instances where one state sends migrants but at the border another State says we are not accepting the migrants. We need a policy on this,” the bench told Mehta.
The government has repeatedly told that the fare is not being charged from the labourers, explaining that the railway ministry is carrying 85% of the ticket fare and the state governments 15%.
The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that the originating state shall provide meals and water at the station and during the journey, the railways would provide the same to the migrant workers. It said that food and water be also provided to them for travel in buses. The states should set up help desks to disseminate information about arrangements made for migrant workers, said the order.
The Centre told the top court that it has sent 97 lakh migrant workers - 50 lakh by Shramik Specials and 47 lakh via road - home between May 1 and 27, adding 80 percent of those are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and M R Shah, directed that states shall oversee the registration of migrant workers and ensure that they are made to board the train or bus at the earliest.
The top court noted in its order that even after registration for travel, the migrants have to wait for a long time for their turns to come. The bench noted submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who said instructions have been given to state governments to facilitate a bus or vehicle if any migrant workers are seen walking on foot.
Migrant workers found walking on the roads, said the court, should immediately be taken to shelters and provided food and other necessary facilities.
The bench, which had on May 26 taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of the miseries of migrant workers, said it believed that the Centre and state governments were required to be given some time to bring on record the steps taken by them on the issue.
It said that details regarding number of migrant workers, plan for transportation, mechanism for registration and other relevant information should be brought on record. It also said that the Railways has to provide trains as and when state government put in such request. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on June 5.