The Supreme Court on Tuesday took suo motu cognisance of the plight of migrant labourers who are stranded in various parts of the country, due to a nationwide lockdown imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. It issued a notice to both central and state governments, for a hearing on May 28, and asked Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to assist it, Bar and Bench reported.

The bench said there have been lapses on the part of the central and state governments. “The newspaper reports and media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on foot and cycles from long distances,” the order said. “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...”

The top court said it had received letters and representations from various sections of society highlighting the problems faced by migrant workers. It said the crisis continues with labourers stranded on roads, on railway stations, on highways etc. “Although Government of India and the State Governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses,” the court noted. “We are of the view that effective concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation.”

The lockdown imposed in March left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers stranded in the places of their work. Millions of them are still walking, cycling, dangerously hitchhiking home, sometimes over distances of more than 1,000 km, often on empty stomachs. More than 170 people have died in accidents on the way.

The Centre on May 1 launched “Shramik Special” trains to ferry migrant labourers home. However, many still continue to walk home, citing unavailability of tickets, unresponsive behaviour by the administration and other problems.

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