August 5, 2021

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Consider harsh realities of migrant workers, provide ration, meal, transportation: SC tells Centre, states

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The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Centre and states to consider harsh realities being faced by migrant workers and ameliorate their miseries caused by renewed restrictions imposed to tackle second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

The court directed the Centre, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide dry ration, cooked meal and transportation, to the stranded migrant workers in the National Capital Region.

“How will migrants survive with no money or work? Some sustenance must be provided for the time being…..you have to consider the harsh realities,” a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, after taking note of fresh restrictions, night curfews and lockdowns announced in April, 2021.

The court was hearing a plea filed by three activists Harsh Mander, Anjali Bharadwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar, who through their counsel Prashant Bhushan sought directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, transport facilities and other welfare measures for migrant workers.

The court asked the Centre and the Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh to respond by detailing the steps taken by them with regard to migrant workers’ plight.

Also read — For migrants leaving Bengaluru, tiring walk, hunger and long wait before the train to home chugs in

The top court also issued notice to the Maharashtra, the Gujarat and the Bihar governments to give details of measures undertaken by them for transportation of
stranded migrant workers and for providing them with dry ration as well as cooked meals.

As interim measures, the court directed the Centre, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide dry ration from May to the migrant workers by utilising PDS without insisting on identity cards, and ensure adequate transport for them by road and train.

The court also directed Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments to open community kitchen at well-advertised places in the National Capital Region for stranded workers, in order to ensure two meals a day for them and their families.

Read: ‘Life is precious’, say migrants fleeing Covid-hit cities in India

It gave 10 days time to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Odisha to file their specific responses in terms of the court’s order passed in Suo Motu matter on migrants crisis on June 9 and July 31, 2020 with regard various measures including food security, health insurance for migrant labourers, resumption of work for migrant labourers.

During the hearing, advocate Bhushan, representing the petitioners, contended that a large number of migrant workers were facing distress due to the pandemic, as they have lost jobs and got no money to look after their families. 

Terming the plea as “far from reality”, Mehta submitted before the bench the country is fighting the worst form of the pandemic and the state governments are trying to ensure that industrial and construction activities are not halted.

“This year, the effort of every state is to ensure that it is not a lockdown in a sense which we have seen last time,” he said.

He emphasized that the states are alive to the situation and insisted that states should be allowed to place all the details before the top court. 

The top court had in May, last year, taken suo motu cognisance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers and had passed a slew of directions for the state governments.

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