The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and state governments to identify stranded migrant workers and transport them back to their hometowns within 15 days, Bar and Bench reported. The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah had on June 5 said that they intend to provide the governments 15 days to transport migrant workers.

Hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers began journeys home on foot in March, after the Centre imposed a countrywide lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Some died on the way due to illness.

On Tuesday, the bench also ordered the Centre to provide additional “Shramik Special” trains within 24 hours of requests by states, so that migrant labourers could be sent back home soon. The Centre had launched over 300 of these trains from May 1. However, not all migrant labour has been able to board them. The Centre and states have clashed over the operations of these trains.

The court said that cases filed against the labourers under the Disaster Management Act for violating the countrywide lockdown should be considered as withdrawn by states.

The Supreme Court said that states need to establish help desks to help migrants avail employment opportunities. It also ordered states to establish counselling centres for migrant workers, if they wish to travel back to their places of work and find employment. The bench said schemes established for welfare and employment of migrant workers should be properly publicised, PTI reported.

The bench then adjourned the hearing for July 8.

India’s tally of coronavirus cases rose to 2,66,598 on Tuesday morning, after 9,987 cases were reported in 24 hours. The toll rose to 7,466 with 266 more deaths.