The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a petition seeking directions to the Centre to provide food and shelter to migrant workers on the move, saying it was “impossible for this court to monitor who is walking and not walking,” Live Law reported.
The petition, filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, raised the matter of 16 migrant workers who were run over by a cargo train in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad last week. The victims had been walking along railway tracks, desperate to get back home in Madhya Pradesh and had fallen asleep on them sometime during the night. They were reportedly run over around 5 in the morning.
“How can anyone stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?” a bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjay Kaul said in response to the petitioner, according to NDTV. “It is for the states to decide,” the court said. “There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it?”
The court berated the advocate, saying his petition was “totally based” on newspaper clippings. Advocates “read incidents in the paper and become knowledgeable about every subject”, the court observed. “Your knowledge is totally based on newspaper clippings and then you want this court to decide.”
The court refused to entertain the plea after the Centre claimed that arrangements had been made for the migrants to return home “but some don’t want to wait and start walking on foot”, according to News18. “Migrants must have patience to wait for their turn,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench. “If someone doesn’t want to wait for his turn…”
The hearing came a day after fourteen migrant workers were killed in two separate accidents in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday evening. More than 60 people were injured.
With businesses shut down in cities across the country, vast numbers of migrants began long journeys on foot, having been rendered homeless and jobless by the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Some also died on their way while a few others died in accidents. Last month, the Centre arranged for the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and “other persons” by shramik special trains to be operated by the railways during the lockdown.