Supreme Court: After taking suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country on Tuesday and receiving a response from Government, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has issued interim directions and has held that no fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers.

“The railway fare shall be shared by the States as per their arrangement as submitted by the learned Solicitor General and in no case any fare should be asked or charged from any migrant workers by the States and the Railways.”

The Court had, on 26.05.2020, taken up the issue suo motu based on, newspaper and media reports and several letters and representations it received from different sections of society highlighting the problem of migrant labourers. The Court had directed the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist the Court and by the next date of hearing bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard.

Submissions by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta

  • from 01.05.2020, the migrant workers have been sent to their destination i.e. home town by Shramik trains and also by road. 50 lacs migrant workers have been shifted by Shramik trains and about 41 lac migrant workers have been transported by road transport.
  • food and water are provided by the originating concerned State from where the migrant workers start their journey and when the journey is undertaken by railways, the railways provides the meal.
  • the receiving State takes care of the migrant workers and drop them to their home by buses. It also takes steps for quarantining those workers and necessary screening is also conducted.
  • the fare is borne either by the originating State or the receiving State as per their internal arrangement.
  • all the States have set up different relief camps where migrant workers are provided water, food, stay etc. and with regard to migrant workers who are staying in different places in the country, they are provided under the scheme of the Government ration to them even without they having any ration card.
  • all the migrant workers do not intend to go back to their native place due to opening up of so many industries / establishments.
  • wherever the migrant workers are found walking on-foot, there are instructions to the State Authorities to facilitate a bus or a vehicle for them to take to their onward journey or they are sent to relief camps and provided shelter and food.

Observations of the Court

The Court noticed that although there is no doubt that the concerned State Governments/Union Territories are taking steps to do the needful but there are several difficulties and lapses which are being noticed. It was, however, of the opinion that

“both the Central Government and the State Governments / Union Territories are required to be given some reasonable time to bring the steps taken by them on the record.”

It, hence, issued interim directions pending consideration of the detailed reply and affidavits from the State Governments and the Central Government.

Interim Directions

  1. No fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers.
  2. The migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country shall be provided food free of cost by the concerned States/Union Territories at different places which shall be publicized and notified to them during the period they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus.
  3. The originating State shall provide water and meal and during the journey, the railways shall provide meal and water to the migrant workers and same facilities shall be extended when the migrant workers are transported by bus. The State shall take care of providing necessities water and meal during the period of transportation either in the bus or in the camps on the way.
  4. The State shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and also provide help desk for registration at the places where they are stranded.
  5. The State shall try to endeavour that after registration the workers should be asked to board the train or bus at the earliest and complete information should be publicized to all the concerned regarding mode of transport.
  6. Those migrant workers who are found walking on the highways or roads shall be immediately taken care by the concerned State / Union Territories and they shall be provided the transport to the destination and all facilities including food and water be provided to those found walking on the road.
  7. The receiving State, after the migrant workers reach his native place, shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

The Court will next take up the matter on 05.06.2020.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 28.05.2020]

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