The Supreme Court on Monday asked for a status report from the Centre by the following day on the measures related to the large-scale migration of workers amid the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, reported PTI. The top court noted that the migration of labourers due to panic over the spreading Covid-19 was becoming a bigger problem than containment of the disease.
The bench, led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, said it did not want to cause more confusion by passing orders on the relief measures for the migrant workers since the Centre was already taking care of it. The court will now hear the matter again on Tuesday.
The top court took up two separate pleas, filed by lawyers Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal on measures for the migrant labourers. During the proceedings, which took place through video conferencing, the court noted it would go over the status report from the Centre before passing any ruling.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the migration had to be stopped to contain the spread of the virus. Mehta added that the Centre as well as the states concerned had taken requisite steps to deal with it.
A plea, filed by an advocate, Alakh Alok Srivastava, sought the top court to give directions to immediately identify 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. Meanwhile, another petition has sought medical and safety measures for migrant workers amid the lockdown.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the petitioner that the top court did not want to intervene with Centre’s plans of tackling the mass exodus. The court has decided to wait for a report from the Central government to be submitted on Wednesday on steps being taken over the large-scale migration of daily wagers and migrant labour, it added.
“ First we want to go through the government’s affidavit, which it has to file, then we may hear the case,” Bobde said as the top court has adjourned the matter till Tuesday. “I think government is taking certain measures. We do not want to complicate things by issuing orders on things the government is already doing,” he added.
During the hearing, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it is working in coordination with all state governments to take necessary steps to mitigate the situation.
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 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.
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 1,071. Out of these, 942 are being treated, 29 people have died, 99 have recovered, and one person has migrated. The highest number of cases have been reported from Kerala and Maharashtra with 194 and 193 infections. Eight Covid-19 patients have died in Maharashtra – the highest number in the country.