Give Migrants Food, Don’t Charge Travel Fare: SC to Centre, States

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 28 May, pulled up the Centre and the state governments over the issue of migrant workers and asked them to make sure that none are seen walking on the roads to their hometowns.

The apex court said that those migrant workers found travelling on foot be immediately taken to shelters and be provided with food and all basic facilities.

The court also said that no bus or train fare shall be charged from migrant workers and that they should be provided with food by the state. It also said that railways must provide food and water on trains.

Taking suo-motu cognizance of the matter, a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, said that they are concerned with the difficulties of migrants.

“We are concerned with the difficulties of migrants trying to get to their native place. There are several lapses that we’ve noticed in the process of registration, transportation and provision of food and water to them,” the court said.

“Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for over 80 percent of migrants... 91 lakh migrants shifted so far,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the central government told the Supreme Court.

Further, Mehta said, “This is an unprecedented crisis and we (Centre) are taking unprecedented measures.”

SC also asked Centre to specify why migrant workers had to wait for so long despite registering for going home.

The matter will be heard by the court on 5 June next.

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SC Had Taken Suo Motu Cognizance Earlier

Earlier, the Supreme Court on Tuesday had taken suo motu cognizance of plight of migrant labourers who are stranded in different parts of country, and pulled up the Centre and states for being responsible.

The court said that there have been lapses on part of Centre and state governments and immediate measures are required to be taken to provide travel, shelter and food to migrant labourers.

It had also issued a notice to both central and state governments, for a hearing on 28 May, and asked Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to assist it.

“The newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances,” had said the apex court, according to LiveLaw.

“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, ie, highways from which they proceeded on-foot, cycles or other modes of transport,” the court had added.

During the last hearing in the court on 15 May, regarding the deaths of 16 migrants on a railway track in Aurangabad, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had told the judges that the authorities could not do anything about the migrant workers walking home as they were not waiting for the trains which have been arranged to take them home.

The lockdown has left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers stranded in the places of their work since March. Many migrant labourers are still walking, cycling, hitchhiking home, sometimes over distances of more than 1,000 km, with hardly any food or water to sustain themselves. More than 170 people have died in accidents on the way.

The Centre on 1 May had launched “Shramik Special” trains to ferry migrant labourers home. However, several reports of unavailability of tickets, trains being diverted to different routes have also emerged.

(With inputs from ANI and Live Law)

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