The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that there are no migrant workers on the roads “as of 11 am on March 31” and they have all been taken to the nearest available shelter, Bar and Bench reported. The court was hearing petitions seeking relief for thousands of labourers who have been attempting to return home after being left without work during the 21-day lockdown because of the novel coronavirus.
“The home mecretary is saying that as of 11 am this morning, nobody is on the road,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court. “They have been taken to the nearest available shelter.” Mehta added that no inter-state migration will be allowed.
The Supreme Court directed the Centre to ensure that migrant workers who have lost their jobs and homes amid the 21-day coronavirus lockdown are provided food and medicines, Bar and Bench reported. The court also emphasised on the need to provide counselling to the migrants workers to ease their fears.
“You will ensure that all those whose migration you have stopped are taken care of in terms of food, shelter, nourishment and medical aid,” Chief Justice SA Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The court also stressed the need to boost the morale of the migrants.“You can have bhajan, kirtan, namaz or whatever but you have to give strength to the people,” the court said, according to NDTV. “Ensure trained counsellors and community leaders of all faiths visit relief camps and prevent panic.” Mehta told the court that in addition to trained counsellors, religious leaders will be brought in to talk to the migrants at shelters.
Chief Justice Bobde told Mehta that the responsibility of managing shelters should be given to volunteers and not the police and added that there must be no use of any force or intimidation on the migrants.
Mehta also told the court that authorities have been asked to ensure that the daily wagers and the homeless get food. He said that food will be made available to them thorough midday meal kitchens, railway caterers, religious trusts, and corporates.
During the hearing, Mehta also told the top court that fake news is a huge problem for the government in its intensifying fight against the coronavirus. He told the court that the government is setting up a special committee to address queries of citizens. Justice Bobde told Mehta that the committee must be set up within 24 hours and daily press conferences must be held to tackle the problem.
With businesses upended and establishments shut down due to the lockdown, huge number of daily wage labourers, many of whom lived where they worked, were suddenly left without jobs and shelter in large cities. With no available means of transport, thousands of them – with elderly parents and children in tow – marched along interstate highways to their homes. Last week, thousands of them boarded buses arranged by the governments of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to get home.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a 21-day lockdown last week, the most drastic step in India’s war on the deadly coronavirus. On Monday, India reported its sharpest spike in the number of the coronavirus cases as 227 people tested positive in 24 hours, taking the country’s total to 1,251 with 32 deaths.