Govermment Tells Supreme Court 'Over 22,000 Relief Camps Functional' to Help Citizens in Need

Over 22,000 government-run relief camps are functional in 578 districts of the country to provide shelter and food to needy citizens during 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb spread of COVID-19, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Centre stated this in its status report in response to the PIL filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj, seeking enforcement of fundamental right to life for migrant workers and payment of wages to them as they have been left without work or food following the lockdown.

The report, filed by additional secretary Gyanesh Kumar of Ministry of Home Affairs, gave facts and figures on relief camps, shelter homes and food camps run by several state governments and NGOs and said several lakhs of needy people are getting food and shelter in such centres.

Seeking dismissal of the PIL, the Centre said that all stakeholders are working in coordination and taking "pro-active and pre-emptive steps" to deal with the situations.

"The Central Government has taken pro-active and pre-emptive steps to first deal with the emergent priority existing then viz. containing the spread of Corona Virus in the country.

"As compared to the position in several parts of the world, the proactive, continuously monitored and pre-emptive steps taken by the Central Government and all the State Government have been successful and the spread of virus is at its minimum," the report said.

It said that in 578 districts of the country, 22,567 relief camps are run by governments and 3,909 by several NGOs and in them, over one crore needy citizens have taken shelter and are getting food also. The report also said that over 17,000 food camps are operational in the country and people get food there.

It also said over 15 lakh people have been given shelter and food by their respective employers during this lockdown.

"I state that while it is the responsibility of the Central Government and all State Governments to ensure protection of every section of this society, which the Central Government and all State Governments are discharging scrupulously, the present petition may not be entertained ...," the MHA officer said.

It said the PIL was "bereft of any facts and is based on some newspaper reports".

The Centre and all state governments are doing their best strategizing all human resources and other resources to come out of this unprecedented global crisis, it said adding that during this "unprecedented crisis", such a plea should not be entertained.

The apex court, while deferring the hearing on the PIL to April 13, observed that it was not an "expert" body to deal with health and management issues of migrant workers during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

The bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took note of the response of the government that it was monitoring the situation and has set up helpline number for helping the poor workers.

Earlier, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that it has taken steps to deal with the coronavirus pandemic due to which its spread was so far contained but fake news, causing serious panic, is the "single most unmanageable hindrance" in the management of this challenge.