COVID-19| Transportation of stranded migrant workers must be completed in next 15 days

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has directed all the States/Union Territories to take all necessary steps regarding identification of stranded migrant workers in their State which are willing to return to their native places and take steps for their return journey by train/bus which process may be completed within a period of 15 days.

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. After receiving the response from the Government, the Court had issued certain interim directions on May 28, 2020.

The Court, in it’s final order in the matter, noticed that lapses and short-comings in implementing the schemes and policies have been highlighted by various intervenors in their applications and affidavits.

“The responsibility of the States/Union Territories is not only to referring their policy, measures contemplated, funds allocated but there has to be strict vigilance and supervision as to whether those measures, schemes, benefits reaches to those to whom they are meant.”

The Court also took note of the fact that police officers of States, para-military forces wherever deployed are doing commendable job but some instances of excess with regard to migrant labourers are also there. The migrant labourers, who were forced to proceed to their native place, after cessation of their employment are already suffering.

“The Financial difficulty being with all the migrant labourers invariably they have to dealt by the police and other authorities in a humane manner. The concerned Director General of Police/Police Commissioner may issue necessary directions in this regard.”

The Court also appreciated the non-governmental organisations and individuals have also contributed and played an important role in extending helping hand to the migrants in this difficult time.

Taking all factors into consideration, the Court has also issued the following orders:

  • In event of any additional demand, in addition to demand of 171 Shramik trains, as noticed above, railway shall provide Shramik trains within a period of 24 hours as submitted by learned Solicitor General to facilitate the return journey of migrant workers.
  • The Central Government may give details of all schemes which can be availed by migrant workers who have returned to their native places.
  • All States and Union Territories shall also give details of all schemes which are current in the State, benefit of which can be taken by the migrant labourers including different schemes for providing employment.
  • The State shall establish counselling centres, help desk at block and district level to provide all necessary information regarding schemes of the Government and to extend helping hand to migrant labourers to identify avenues of employment and benefits which can be availed by them under the different schemes.
  • The details of all migrant labourers, who have reached their native places, shall be maintained with details of their skill, nature of employment, earlier place of employment. The list of migrant labourers shall be maintained village wise, block wise and district wise to facilitate the administration to extend benefit of different schemes which may be applicable to such migrant workers.
  • The counselling centres, established, as directed above, shall also provide necessary information by extending helping hand to those migrant workers who have returned to their native places and who want to return to their places of employment.
  • All concerned States/UTs to consider withdrawal of prosecution/complaints under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against the migrant labourers who alleged to have violated measures of Lockdown by moving on roads during the period of Lockdown enforced under Disaster Management Act, 2005.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 492 , order dated 09.06.2020]

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