Madras HC | “Host State in which migrant workers were working should be made accountable for their safety & well being; States expected to act in unison, rendering assistance to poorer section”

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of N. Kirubakaran and R. Hemalatha, JJ., while addressing a petition, held that,

“It is not only the duty of the native State of the migrant workers but also the duty of the States where they were working to care for their safety and well being.”

In the present petition direction was sought to produce bodies of Ilayaraja and 400 others who had been illegally detained by Respondent 1.

Additional Public Prosecutor, R. Prathap Kumar submitted that in view of Ministry of Home Affairs, order dated 29th April, 2020, Tamil Nadu Government had issued an order dated 4th May, 2020, by which about 19 IAS Officers had been appointed to co-ordinate the movement of stranded persons to and from the States/UTs concerned.

Governments have taken care of every section of the society to the maximum extent possible, migrant workers and the agricultural work force are the neglected lot and they are the sufferers to the maximum.

Court stated that it would like to know whether coordinated efforts have been taken by all the State Governments in consultation with the Central Government to address the sufferings of the migrant labourers.

Further, the Bench stated that,

One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy.

Court also observed that,

“…heart breaking stories are reported in the print as well as visual media that millions of workers were compelled to start walking to their native States with their little children carrying all their belongings over their head, surviving on the food provided by good Samaritans, as no steps were taken by the Governments to help those migrant workers.”

Adding to it’s observation of the state of migrant workers, Court also stated that,

It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents.

Further the Court noted that,

“.. it is very pathetic to note that neither the native States nor the States through which they were walking all along took care of them and failed to provide even the basic amenities & even if they had been, they were negligible”

Host State in which they were working should be made accountable for the safety and well being of the migrant labourers, for which all the States are expected to act in unison, rendering assistance to those poorer sections.

Thus, Court listed certain queries for Centre and Government of Tamil Nadu:

  1. Whether any data is being maintained by the Government of India regarding the details of migrant workers working in each State/Union Territories in India?
  2. If so, what is the number of migrant workers in each State/Union Territories in India and the details regarding their nativity
  3. What is the number of migrant workers stranded in each State/Union Territories in India as on today?
  4. What are all the assistance provided to those migrant workers by the respective States as well as the Union Government?
  5. Whether those migrant workers are allowed to cross the State borders or prevented from crossing the borders and if they are prevented, whether they are provided with basic amenities such as food, shelter and medical assistance?
  6. How many migrant workers died on their way to the native States?
  7. which States/Union Territories, the deceased workers belong to?
  8. Relief measures/compensation to families of migrant workers?
  9. How many of them have been evacuated through buses/trains?
  10. Steps taken to transport the remaining people to their native States?
  11. Whether migration of people is one of the reasons for spread of Covid-19?
  12. Whether the Central Government has instructed the respective States/Union Territories to provide financial assistance, job opportunities in their native State/Union Territories for the labourers who migrated from other States?

Matter to be listed on 22-05-2020.[A.P. Suryaprakasam v. Superintendent of Police, Sangli District; 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1004; decided on 15-05-2020]

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