Migrant workers in Mumbai wait to catch a bus to the Bandra railway station on Thursday.(Pratik Chorge/HT)
Migrant workers in Mumbai wait to catch a bus to the Bandra railway station on Thursday.(Pratik Chorge/HT)

Migrants can’t be made to pay for travel, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued a seven-point interim order that said it was the job of the state to provide them food and transport and that they cannot be charged for their travel.
By Murali Krishnan | Hindustan Times, New Delhi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2020 12:08 AM IST

The Supreme Court finally intervened to protect the interests of stranded migrant workers on Thursday, issuing a seven-point interim order that said it was the job of the state to provide them food and transport and that they cannot be charged for their travel, and asking the Union government, represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, a volley of questions on the logistics of ferrying workers back home on trains and buses, including the time they have to wait for transport. The court also remarked that no state can refuse to take back migrant workers.

The apex court’s intervention came two days after it took suo motu (on its own) cognisance of the travails of migrant workers, around two months after it seemed to buy Mehta’s contention that there wasn’t a single migrant worker on the roads walking back home, and 12 days after it said it couldn’t prevent migrants from taking to the roads to walk back home or monitor their movements.

“No fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers. The railway fare shall be shared by the States as per their arrangement as submitted by the learned Solicitor General and in no case any fare should be asked or charged from any migrant workers by the States and the Railways,” the interim order said.

A three-judge bench of the court headed by justice Ashok Bhushan heard the case through video conference and also backed a uniform policy in order to do away with any kind of confusion in dealing with the migrant crisis. In a two-and-a-half -hour hearing, it posed a series of questions to Mehta on various aspects.

Migrant workers, many left jobless and homeless after their workplaces or work sites shut during the ongoing lockdown imposed on March 25 to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease, have struggled to get home. In the absence of any public transport, many started walking or cycling back home in March. Some were turned away at state borders and housed in migrant worker camps; others managed to slip through borders. It was only in late April that the home ministry came up with a protocol to transport them by buses. Soon after, on May 1, the rail ministry announced Shramik Special trains for them. Since then, and till May 27, Mehta told the court, around 3,700 such trains have run, transporting five million people back home. But many are still awaiting trains. Some do not have the documentation to register for them. There has also been confusion over who pays for the tickets (some migrants HT’s reporters have spoken to have paid out of their pocket). And the Centre and the states have scrapped over the trains.

The return migration has been peppered with tragic incidents — migrants have died on road accidents; 16 were run over by a goods train; and according to news reports on Thursday, at least nine people died on Shramik Special trains in the past 48 hours. In the court, Mehta suggested those walking had been misguided into doing so by some people.

Interestingly, between the time the Supreme Court said it couldn’t do anything to migrants taking to the roads and its Tuesday decision to take up the matter, several high courts, including the Madras and the Andhra high courts, criticised the way the Centre and the states have handled the crisis. A group of 21 lawyers from Delhi and Mumbai wrote to the Supreme Court on Monday, criticising its approach. “We address this letter because we believe that the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s failure to protect the rights of the hapless millions of migrant workers in March and its failure to scrutinise carefully the executive’s actions, which resulted in them (migrant labourers) being compelled to stay in cramped unhygienic accommodation without employment and wages and often without proper food and with a much higher risk of Covid infection,” the letter said. HT reported details of the letter on May 27.

On Thursday, the three-judge bench that also included justices SK Kaul and MR Shah, asked Indian Railways and states where special trains for migrants are originating to provide food and water to the workers, and directed the authorities to take people found walking to shelter homes. The court asked originating states and railways to provide food and water to migrants during train journeys, as is the current practice. The bench also ordered that states should simplify the process of registration of migrant workers.

“The State shall try to endeavour that after registration the workers should be asked to board the train or bus at the earliest...,” the order said. The receiving states should provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost, the court added.

The court said replies by states and the Centre in the case will have to filed within a week. The case will be heard next on June 5. Various private parties have sought intervention in the case, including NGOs and Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

“We are of the view that in the responses which are to be filed by the Central Government and the State Governments, all necessary details regarding the number of migrant workers, the plan to transport them to their destination, the mechanism of registration and other details should be brought on the record. The learned Solicitor General has also submitted that an estimated time period and the plan for transportation of all stranded workers shall also be intimated in the reply,” the court said.

Mehta, asked about who pays for migrants’ journeys back home, said it was either the states receiving them or those sending them. “In some cases, the money is reimbursed by the receiving state,” he said. The bench noted that such a policy creates confusion and underscored the need for a uniform policy. The issue of train tickets has triggered a controversy in the past, with opposition parties accusing the Centre of making migrants pay. The Centre has maintained that the journey is subsidised.

Mehta said since May 1, altogether 9.1 million migrant workers have been ferried to their hometowns by trains and buses till Wednesday. The court asked whether the people being transported were asked “to shell out any money at any stage”.

The court also said no state should have the right to reject workers coming back. “There is no question...They are all citizens of India,” Mehta replied.

Mehta also complained to the court about “prophets of doom” who keep spreading what he called misinformation. “The Centre is doing a lot to prevent Covid-19, but there are prophets of doom in our country who only spread negativity, negativity, negativity,” Mehta said.

He objected to the arguments of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was representing NGO Delhi Shramik Sangathan. “It’s a humanitarian crisis. Nothing to do with politics. Don’t make it personal,” Sibal said.

In his arguments, Sibal said the Centre failed to prescribe the minimum standards for shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation under the Disaster Management Act. “There has to be coordination between national, state and district plans,” he said. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Sujrewala, who has filed an application on the issue, said: “A large number of points of departure or arrival do not have relief camps. There are groups of people standing at the bus stations and railway stations. There is no supporting camp. No state or nationwide plan.”

Senior advocate Santosh Paul told HT an early judicial intervention could have avoided a tragedy at a large scale. “This judicial intervention is welcome, but it has come after two months of tragic consequences of the lockdown, hunger and inevitable migration,” he said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Oppn seeks probe into Goswami chats

By Deeksha Bhardwaj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:32 PM IST
New Delhi: Opposition politicians on Sunday demanded a probe of purported WhatsApp chats of Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV, and Partho Dasgupta, former chief executive officer of the TV audience measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in which the former makes remarks that his critics say show he may have had advance knowledge of the Indian Air Force strike on a terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Balakot
Close
HT Image
HT Image

MP: 8 held for rape of 13-year-old

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:30 PM IST
Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh police on Saturday arrested eight people on charges of abducting a 13-year-old Class 9 student and gang-raping her twice in eight days, causing her acute trauma, officials said on Sunday
Close
HT Image
HT Image

People may be allowed to self-register for a vaccine

By Saubhadra Chatterji, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:28 PM IST
The Centre may allow self-registration by the elderly and those with comorbidities on the Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network (CoWIN) platform for faster and easier enrolment of people to receive a shot of the Covid-19 vaccine
Close
Chabahar port.(chabaharport.pmo.ir/en)
Chabahar port.(chabaharport.pmo.ir/en)

India delivers 1st batch of heavy cranes to bolster operations at Chabahar port

By Rezaul H Laskar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:28 PM IST
  • Hindustan Times had first reported last month that the cranes were set to be delivered in January.
Close
The drums of illicit liquor was destroyed in the open.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)
The drums of illicit liquor was destroyed in the open.(Representational image/HT PHOTO)

Hooch bust in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh ends in death of 5 cows

PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 11:15 PM IST
  • Local people accused the authorities of destroying the alcohol drums in the open and not taking precautions to stop access of the liquor to the cows.
Close
Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said that when his daughter sees photos of him not wearing a mask, she takes him to task on his return home.(AFP file)
Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said that when his daughter sees photos of him not wearing a mask, she takes him to task on his return home.(AFP file)

Farooq Abdullah says 'can't even kiss my wife' because of pandemic

PTI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:45 PM IST
The octogenarian leader, who was candid and witty in his nearly-35-minute speech, said one is even afraid of a handshake or a hug in the current situation.
Close
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray addresses a gathering during the Shiv Sena's Dusshera rally in Mumbai, Sunday.(PTI)
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray addresses a gathering during the Shiv Sena's Dusshera rally in Mumbai, Sunday.(PTI)

Shiv Sena gets ambitious, to contest 100 seats in Bengal assembly polls

UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:11 PM IST
  • The Shiv Sena which is a marginal force in West Bengal, is aiming to punch much above its weight.
Close
A Covid-19 vaccine shot being administerd at Rajawadi Hospital in Mumbai. (Satish Bate/Hindustan Times)
A Covid-19 vaccine shot being administerd at Rajawadi Hospital in Mumbai. (Satish Bate/Hindustan Times)

Covid-19 vaccine drive: Health Ministry instructs states to identify bottlenecks

ANI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:09 PM IST
The health ministry official also informed that the inaugural inoculation drive in India is the highest day one vaccination number in the world.
Close
A still from the Amazon Prime Video web series 'Tandav'. (YouTube/Amazon Prime Video)
A still from the Amazon Prime Video web series 'Tandav'. (YouTube/Amazon Prime Video)

I&B ministry summons Amazon Prime India officials after controversy over Tandav

By hindustantimes.com, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:51 PM IST
  • BJP parliamentarian from Maharashtra Manoj Kotak and West Ghatkopar MLA Ram Kadam demanded a ban on the series.
Close
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone.(Reuters/ File photo)
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone.(Reuters/ File photo)

Facebook, Twitter representatives to appear before IT parliamentary panel

By Deeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:19 PM IST
  • HT had reported on Wednesday that the panel was mulling the decision in the wake of the privacy concerns surrounding WhatsApp’s new policy.
Close
Food being prepared in Train Pantry at Ludhiana Railway station.(Gurpreet Singh/HT File Photo)
Food being prepared in Train Pantry at Ludhiana Railway station.(Gurpreet Singh/HT File Photo)

IRCTC to resume cooked food supply to passengers in trains soon: Eastern Railway

PTI, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:32 PM IST
There are plans to add Barddhaman, Bolpur and Jamalpur in the list of stations from where the e-catering services are provided, the Eastern Railway spokesperson said.
Close
Labourers load sacks of newly harvested paddy crop on a truck purchased by procurement agencies.(Representative Photo/PTI)
Labourers load sacks of newly harvested paddy crop on a truck purchased by procurement agencies.(Representative Photo/PTI)

Govt procures paddy worth 1.06 lakh crore so far this kharif season

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:25 PM IST
Out of the total purchase of 564.17 lakh tonnes, Punjab has contributed 202.77 lakh tonnes.
Close
Farmers participate in a tractor rally to protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi. (Representative Image)(REUTERS)
Farmers participate in a tractor rally to protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi. (Representative Image)(REUTERS)

News updates from Hindustan Times: Plea on farmers tractor rally in SC on Monday

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 09:19 PM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times.
Close
File photo: Army soldier patrol near Line of Control (LoC) at Poonch.(ANI)
File photo: Army soldier patrol near Line of Control (LoC) at Poonch.(ANI)

LoC infiltration down by 70%, surrender policy for terrorists in the works: Army

UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:14 PM IST
  • Chinar Corps commander Lt Gen BS Raju said the Line of Control remains fairly active because of Pakistan's attempts to push in terrorists.
Close
The ministry is hopeful that with such pace it should be able to cross construction target of 11,000 km by March 31.(PTI)
The ministry is hopeful that with such pace it should be able to cross construction target of 11,000 km by March 31.(PTI)

Record construction of 534 km of national highways in one week, says govt

PTI, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 08:53 PM IST
In total, projects of 8,948 km of roads were awarded in 2019-20 while 10,237 km of roads were constructed.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP