SC hits reset on stand over plight of migrant workers, sends notice to govt
The Supreme Court’s notice comes barely 10 days after another bench refused to intervene on a petition that wanted the government to identify stranded migrant workers, take care of their needs and provide free transport to them.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday told the government at the Centre and the states to report back in two days on the steps being taken to help migrant workers stranded due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
The top court’s notice comes barely 10 days after another bench refused to intervene on a petition that wanted the government to identify stranded migrant workers, take care of their needs and provide free transport to them. At one point, a judge on this bench remarked: “How can we (migrants) stop them from walking”.
This was the first time since the March 25 lockdown that the top court had practically declined to push the government to do more for the migrant workers. On April 27, the court had closed a petition on the plight of migrant workers after the Centre insisted that all arrangements had been made for the migrant workers at 26,000 plus relief camps.
A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan on Tuesday said it was taking suo motu note of media reports and the many representations that they had received about the plight of migrants. In its preliminary remarks recorded in the order, the bench said the central and state governments should immediately provide adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters “free of costs”.
As the bench, also comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah, gave governments time till Thursday to come up with their response, it underscored that the government and the states had taken measures “yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses”.
“We are of the view that effective concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation,” the bench said in its two-page order.
A larger part of Tuesday’s order was devoted to outlining the reasons why the court had decided to take up the issue on its own.
Media reports, the order said, had been “continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers” walking on-foot and cycles from long distances.
“They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on-foot, cycles or other modes of transport,” the Supreme Court said, holding that “this section of the society needs succour and help” by the governments concerned.