The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a petition seeking relief for tens of thousands of migrant workers, mostly young male daily wage labourers, who are fleeing large cities after being rendered homeless and jobless by India’s three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, NDTV reported. The petition filed by an advocate, Alakh Alok Srivastava, seeks to provide basic amenities such as food, water and shelter to the migrant workers.

With businesses upended and establishments shut down, vast numbers of daily wage labourers, many of whom lived where they worked, were suddenly left without any means of sustenance and shelter in large cities. Thousands of them, including whole families, marched along interstate highways to their homes attempting to cross state borders, amid the 21-day lockdown. Many of them have died. While the deaths of at least 22 such migrants are documented, the actual number might be much more.

The petitioner draws attention to the plight of migrant workers and seeks the top court’s intervention to “ immediately identify such moving or stranded migrant workers and to immediately shift them to the nearest government shelter homes or accommodations with proper food, water, medicines and under medical supervision, in a dignified manner” till the present Coronavirus lockdown continues.

The plea said that the biggest sufferers of the ongoing crisis are the poor, unregistered migrant workers, working in various big cities of India as rickshaw-pullers, ragpickers, construction workers, factory workers, house-maids, servants, unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

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Citing Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution, the petitioner says the fundamental rights of the migrant workers is being violated. “Redress the heart wrenching and inhuman plight of thousands of migrant workers families – women, small children, elders and differently-abled persons – walking on foot for hundreds of kilometers, from cities to their native villages: without food, water, transport, medicine or shelter, amid coronavirus crisis,” the petition read.

The petitioner also argued that these workers who are pouring out of sprawling cities in packed buses, will be stigmatised as carriers of the Covid-19 infection and will face the risk of being shunned in their villages, Bar and Bench reported.

The Centre on Sunday asked all states and Union Territories to seal their borders, as migrant labourers attempted to return home on foot. The Centre said adequate arrangements should be made for shelter and food for the migrants in their places of work itself. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to the public for imposing the countrywide lockdown, calling it harsh but “needed to win” the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

India began its sixth day in lockdown on Monday as confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 1,024. Out of these, 901 are being treated, 27 people have died, 95 have recovered, and one person has migrated. Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus has claimed 27 lives in the country so far.