The Supreme Court on Friday reiterated it’s June 9 order directing the Centre and the state governments to identify and transport stranded migrant workers home within the next 15 days, Bar and Bench reported. A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah clarified the order after taking suo motu cognisance of the migrant workers’ exodus.
Advocate Indira Jaising claimed that the Supreme Court’s order was not being followed in “letter and spirit”. She added that migrant workers were being asked to provide excess information for trying to reach home amid the national lockdown. “Nothing being done,” Jaising said. “No ads in vernacular languages, no publicising of my lords orders by state governments for benefit of migrant workers.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said over 1,000 migrants have been sent to their homes. Special trains were being provided within 24 hours after getting the state’s request, he added.
Meanwhile, Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan also pointed out that contrary to the court’s order, migrant workers are being asked to pay for the transportation. “It has to be made clear that Centre will pay the money and not the states,” he said. “Some states don’t have funds.”
“Our order was migrants will not pay,” the court told Sankaranarayanan, according to LiveLaw. “Whether the Centre pays or state pays, not the issue.”
Justice Shah took note of an order passed by the Karnataka High Court, stating that the 15-day transportation period set by the apex court was not mandatory. “Karnataka High Court has passed order that our order is not mandatory,” he said. “You must inform Karnataka that our order is mandatory.”
The court will hear the matter next on July 8.
During the last hearing, the court directed that cases filed against the labourers under the Disaster Management Act for violating the countrywide lockdown should be withdrawn by states. The court had said that “society as a whole was moved by their miseries and difficulties”. It further ordered that counselling centres should be set up to reach out to migrants and explain the various schemes framed for their rehabilitation and employment.
On May 28, the Supreme Court observed that there were several problems in the process of registration, transportation and providing water and food to the migrants. The court had ruled that migrant workers must not be charged for train or bus fare, and that states should provide meals to them. Earlier, the top court had also admitted there were “inadequacies and certain lapses” in government measures.
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. Some died from the sheer exhaustion of walking in the scorching heat.