Case BriefsSupreme Court

“To provide food security to impoverished persons is the bounden duty of all States and Governments.”

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan* and MR Shah, JJ has issued extensive directions to ensure the welfare of the migrant labourers who have been severely affected due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both, in the first and the second wave of the pandemic, migrant workers had been exposed to financial and other forms of hardships due to their limited access and claim to the welfare resources offered by the States/Union Territories. The migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable to the economic regression.

The Court, hence, noticed that,

“Our Constitution enjoins that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are for promoting welfare of the people by securing social and economic justice to the weaker section so as to sub-serve the common good to minimize inequalities in income and endeavour to eliminate inequality in status.”

Hence, in order to ensure the unorganised/migrant labourers have access to at-least bare necessities of life, the Court issued the following directions:

(i) Portal for for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers

    • The Central Government to develop the Portal in consultation with National Informatics Centre (NIC) for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers.
    • The Central Government as well as the respective States and the Union Territories to complete the process of Portal for registration under National Data Base for Unorganised Workers (NDUW Project) as well as implement the same, which by all means may commence not later than 31.07.2021.
    • The process of registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers is completed at the earliest, but not later than 31.12.2021.
    • All the concerned States/Union Territories and the Licence Holders/Contractors and others to cooperate with the Central Government to complete the process of registration of migrant workers and unorganized labourers so that the benefits of the welfare schemes declared by the Central Government/State Governments/ Union Territories be available to migrant workers and unorganized labourers for whose benefits the welfare schemes are declared.

(ii) The Central Government having undertaken to distribute additional quantity of foodgrains as demanded by the States/Union Territories for distribution to migrant labourers under some Scheme framed by the States, we direct the Central Government, Department of Food and Public Distribution (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution) to allocate and distribute foodgrains as per demand of additional food-grains from the States for disbursement of dry foodgrains to migran labourers.

(iii) States to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which it shall be open for States to ask for allocation of additional foodgrains from the Central Government, which, as directed above, shall provide the additional foodgrains to the State. The State shall consider and bring an appropriate Scheme, which may be implemented on or before 31.07.2021. Such scheme may be continued and operated till the current pandemic (Covid-19) continues.

(iv) The States, who have not yet implemented “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme are directed to implement the same by not later than 31.07.2021.

(v) The Central Government may undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the Rural and Urban areas of the State.

(vi) All the States/Union Territories to register all establishments and license all contractors under the Act, 1979 and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.

(vii) The State/Union Territories are directed to run community kitchens at prominent places where large number of migrant labourers are found for feeding those migrant labourers who does not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day. The running of the community kitchen should be continued at-least till pandemic (Covid-19) continues.

[IN RE: PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 441, decided on 29.06.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ashok Bhushan

Appearances before the Court:

Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General for India, Dushyant Dave and Colin Gonsalves, senior counsel

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah, JJ has directed that a Common National Database for all organised workers situate in different States in the entire country, which may serve registration for extending different schemes by the States and Centre, be created at the earliest so as to ensure that the organised workers are able to reap the benefits of the Government Schemes.

“…for accessing of any benefit percolating from any scheme framed by the Centre or the States for the benefit of unorganized workers or migrant workers, registration of workers is essential, which registration shall facilitate the unorganized workers to assess the scheme and reap the benefit.”

Currently there is no uniform process of registration. There are separate registration of workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers’(Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. Under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, all States have framed the Rules and some States have also undertaken registration under the aforesaid Acts but no State has given any details as to whether registration under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is complete.

The Court, however, noticed that the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 now stand repealed by the Code of Social Security Act, 2020 (Act No.36 of 2020 published in the Gazette of India on 29.09.2020). By Section 164 of the Code, several enactments have been repealed including the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 and the Building and other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. In Section 112 of the Code of Social Security, 2020, registration of unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers is contemplated. The Court, hence, asked the Union of India to apprise it on steps which are proposed to be taken n this regard.

The Court also asked the Central Government and the State Government to complete the process of registration of organized workers at an early date so that unorganized workers are able to reap the benefit of different schemes of the Centre and the States, which without proper registration and identity card seems to be difficult to implement on the ground. A detailed affidavit is to be filed within 2 weeks.

Further, there shall be suitable mechanism to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of the welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries which may be from grassroot levels to higher authorities with names & places of beneficiaries so that the purposes for such schemes are floated is achieved.

The Court also asked all the States to file affidavits indicating the mechanism by which the dry ration should be distributed to those migrant workers, who does not possess a ration card.

“Whether the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme of the Union of India, which was implemented for giving dry rations to migrant workers in May and June, 2020 is to be utilized or some other scheme has to be utilized is a matter for States to take a decision but the dry ration has to be distributed to the migrant workers throughout the country by the States.”

The Court, however, directed that migrant workers wherever stranded throughout the country should be provided the dry ration under the Atma Nirbhar Scheme or any other scheme is found suitable by the States/Centre.

Regarding Community Kitchen, the Court noticed that it is the responsibility of the States/Union Territories to provide Community Kitchen to the stranded migrant workers, who have lost their employment and are in need of two meals a day and hence, they should make operational the community kitchen to the stranded migrant workers wherever they may situate in the country.

“There shall be wide publicity with respect to the various schemes including the places of community kitchens so that such needy persons may in fact take benefits.”

Regarding direct cash transfer to unorganised workers, the Court said that

“… cash transfer is a matter of policy and scheme framed by each State/Union Territory and no direction for cash transfer can be issued by this Court to any category of person unless they are covered by any scheme formulated by the State/Union Territory.”

[IN RE : PROBLEMS AND MISERIES OF MIGRANT LABOURERS, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 398, order dated 24.05.2021]

For petitioner: Advocate Prashant Bhushan,

For Union of India: SG Tushar Mehta and ASG Aishwarya Bhati

For States: Maninder Singh for the State of Gujarat, Garima Prashad for the State of U.P., Ranjit Kumar for the State of Bihar, Rahul Chitnis for the State of Maharashtra and Sanjay Kumar Visen for the State of Haryana.

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench comprising of Manmohan and Asha Menon, JJ., addressed the present writ petition with regards to right to health and livelihood of migrant workers of Delhi. The Bench directed Delhi government to frame a Scheme incorporating a structured response for the ‘home-based worker’, ‘self-employed worker’ and ‘unorganized worker’, as defined under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, within two weeks. The Bench expressed,

“In view of the scale and magnitude of pandemic Covid-19, a structured response by the administration is required so that the voiceless and the marginalized sections of the society can be given proper and adequate relief.”

Right to health and livelihood of migrant workers

The instant petition to seek registration of all migrant workers of Delhi under Section 10 of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 (the Act, 2008) and to provide free medicines and medical facilities to them. The petitioner had sought for the directions to the GNCTD to fulfil its obligations under The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and to pay money under the income transfer scheme to all migrant workers of NCT Delhi. Reliance was placed on the Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in the Constitution to submit that the government is bound to protect the welfare of the people, especially that of the working class under Article 43 of the Constitution of India. It was also submitted that under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, various Central and State funds have been created and that the government can make use of these funds to ensure that the migrant workers are well taken care of.

Stand taken by Government of NCTD

The government had contended before the Court that various steps had already been taken to ameliorate the condition of the migrant workmen as well as those working in the unorganised sector. It was submitted that provisions for free shelter, food and medicare had been made. Also, Rs. 98,96,70,000/- had been disbursed to 2,10,684 workers under order dated 20-04-2021 passed by the Chief Secretary under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Counter Argument by the Petitioner

In rejoinder, the petitioner stated that the steps mentioned in the order dated 20-04-2021 specifically relate to and were restricted to the workers under The Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and till date no scheme had been made to give benefit to the workers under the Act, 2008 as the government do not have any database to locate and identify the migrant workers.

Directions by the Court

The Court expressed that in view of the scale and magnitude of pandemic Covid-19, a structured response by the administration is required so that the voiceless and the marginalized sections of the society can be given proper and adequate relief. Accordingly, the Court directed the government to treat the instant petition as a representation to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and frame a Scheme incorporating a structured response for the ‘home-based worker’, ‘self-employed worker’ and ‘unorganized worker, as defined under the Act, 2008, within two weeks. Additionally, the Court directed,

“While framing the scheme, the Chief Secretary shall keep in mind the prayers sought for in the present writ petition, including the prayer for payment of ex gratia amount to the unorganized workers and the migrant workers.”

The Chief Secretary was also directed to ensure that the registration process under Section 10 of the Act, 2008 is simplified and is implemented at the ground level. Considering the gigantic magnitude of the pandemic, the Court directed the Chief Secretary to consider involving elected representatives as well as the civil society at large in particular NGOs, Gurudwaras etc. who have a good track record and who have been working with the administration in the past to aid the government.

[Abhijeet Kumar Pandey v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 1859, decided on 03-05-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Appearance before the Court by:

Counsel for the Petitioners: Mr. Varun Singh with Mr. Ytharth Kumar and Mr.
Abhijeet Pandey

Counsel for the Union of India: Mr. Amit Mahajan with Mr. Gitesh Chopra

Counsel for GNCTD: ASC Mr. Gautam Narayan with Ms. Asmita Singh

Migrant
COVID 19Op EdsOP. ED.

The M.P. Migrant Workers project is an initiative by Rakshita Agarwal (graduate of National Law University Odisha), Rohit Sharma (graduate of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences), and Lakshay Gupta (final year student, GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi) carried out in association with Zenith Society for Socio-Legal Empowerment, Shivpuri, (M.P.). The project aims to throw light on the current employment status of migrant workers who had come back to Madhya Pradesh (home state) because of COVID-19. The summary version of the report, based on 1500 responses from 52 districts of M.P., draws our attention to the miserable condition of these workers and calls for immediate actions.

The sudden nation-wide lockdown announced in March 2020 resulted in India’s biggest migrant labour crisis. After much hue and cry, the migrant workers were somehow sent back to their villages but, surprisingly, their plight was quickly forgotten. No attempts were made to follow up on their livelihood and living conditions after their transportation. Recognising the importance (and dearth) of post-transport assistance to these workers, the M.P. Migrant Workers project was initiated. More than 60 people, coming from different fields of study, volunteered for the project and completed the humongous task in 1.5 months.

For the purpose of this project, the volunteers contacted migrant workers who had come back to Madhya Pradesh from Maharashtra. Based on a questionnaire developed by the co-ordinators specifically for this purpose, the migrant workers were asked about a number of things ranging from the support received during their travel to their current employment status. The key highlights of the summary findings are as under:

  1. Around 90% of the people have not yet received any kind of monetary help from the government despite being promised about the same.
  2. 5% of the migrant labourers continue to remain unemployed even after 4 months of their return to M.P. In fact, 585 out of 1291 people (around 45.3%) are not even aware of even a single employment scheme that has been introduced for them. Further, 67% of total respondents admitted that they do not have sufficient means to run their families and need urgent support.
  3. The earning patters of those who are employed also present a gloomy picture. At their original places of work in Maharashtra, majority of the respondents (almost 59% of 1450 people) earnt between Rs. 300-500 per day. In the post-lockdown scenario, this number has gone down by 10% and only 49% of the respondents earn between Rs. 300-500 per day in Madhya Pradesh. This significantly impacts the standard of living of these workers.
  4. Despite a number of directions being issued by the Honb’le Supreme Court such as maintaining records of returned workers, introducing employment schemes, establishing counselling centres etc., the results suggest that none of these directions have been followed by the state.
  5. However, the report also represents some pleasant pictures. Findings suggest that the government has performed fairly well in terms of transportation of these workers. Almost 58% of the respondents said that the tickets for their travel were funded entirely by the government. Majority also stated that bus facilities were provided to them from railway stations to their respective villages.
  6. Speaking of the future, 51.79% of people wish to settle in Madhya Pradesh permanently and want employment opportunities here. Up till now, around 310 people have already left M.P. in search of job opportunities. There are many others (around 45% of total respondents) who are considering the idea of moving to other states owing to extensive unemployment and dysfunctional government schemes in M.P.

The co-ordinators of this Project hope to bring real, ground level changes through their findings. To ensure the same, they are approaching bureaucrats and government officials in the state of Madhya Pradesh with possible plan of action to remedy the situation. The project is ongoing and the final version of the report shall be released in upcoming months.

M.P. Migrant Workers Project [Executive Summary]

The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected almost everyone, but some sections are worse hit than others. The migrant labourers of India are one such category.

It is common for the working class in India to temporarily move to other states in search of better job opportunities. With a sudden nation-wide lockdown being announced in March 2020, these migrant labourers were stranded in their host states of work, far away from their homes and families. After much hue and cry, steps were taken to safely transport these workers back to their home states. However, there has been no update on their employment status or standard of living since then and a huge data gap remains in this regard.

With the objective of filling this gap, the M.P. Migrant Workers Project was initiated by co-ordinators Rakshita Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, and Lakshay in association with Zenith Society for Socio-Legal Empowerment, Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh. The main purpose of this study is to shed light on the current employment status of migrant labourers who have returned to Madhya Pradesh during the lockdown. It also aims to know the extent of State intervention and aid provided to these workers throughout the process – starting from their journey from host states to settlements in their villages. Besides making us aware of the ground realities, the findings of this report are important as they can guide immediate policy decisions relating to migrant labourers. A 360-degree analysis of the current approach will help us identify the strengths and weaknesses and further ensure that we are better equipped to deal with such situations in the future.

This executive summary accounts for 1500 respondents from 52 districts of Madhya Pradesh wherein the respondents answered a questionnaire which was devised by the coordinators in consultation with industry experts, civil societies, and governmental officials. A detailed report which includes multiple other factors shall be released in the upcoming months.

We could not have done this without the help of our volunteers. For the purposes of this Study, our dedicated volunteer team relied on first-hand data of migrant workers who travelled from the state of Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh during the lockdown period.

Through this executive summary, we aim to draw everyone’s attention to the plight of these migrant workers and highlight the most pressing issues which require immediate attention. We further hope that the findings will prompt speedy relief action and encourage the development of a sustainable model for upcoming months to ensure that the employment conditions of these migrant workers are improved and they lead a life of dignity.

I. BASIC DEMOGRAPHICS

● Caste – Out of 1365 responses received, around one-third respondents (33%) belonged to Other Backward Classes (OBC)and General Category. 14.5% and 13.4% of the respondents identified themselves as Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) respectively.

●  Age – Around 60% of the respondents belonged to the working age-group of 21 to 30 years. Within that, the highest number (31%) fell in the range of 21-25 years.

●  Gender- 89% of the total respondents were males and 10.38% were females. 4 people (0.26%) preferred not to disclose their gender.

●  Number of dependents- Out of 1409 responses received, 50% of the respondents revealed that approximately 4 to 6 people depended solely on their income. Additionally, 176 people (12.5% of respondents) said that they were the only earning member in a family of 7 or more people.

II. EXTENT OF MONETARY ASSISTANCE RECEIVED

●  What was promised – The Madhya Pradesh State Government had announced in the month of April 2020 that returning labourers shall receive Rs 1,000 directly in their bank accounts. Additionally, it was also assured that in case more money is required, the money shall be credited in the accounts.

●  Following up on this promise of monetary aid and assistance, our findings reveal that around 90% of the 1460 respondents did not receive any money from the government. Remaining 10%, however, said that they did receive some amount. Most of the people were still desperately waiting for the money.

III. WIDESPREAD UNEMPLOYMENT (TOTAL RESPONSES – 1455)

●  As far as the employment status of these migrant workers is concerned, 56.5% said that they are currently unemployed. Almost 67% also asked for immediate administrative support to run their families.

●  While 43% said that they are undertaking some kind of work, the situation is worrisome. 135 of the 617 people (around 22%) who identified themselves as employed are engaged in agriculture-related work or farming in their own fields. In some cases, the entire family works on a single field giving rise resulting in cases of disguised unemployment.

●  It is also important to note that only 602 individuals answered questions about their current earnings (i.e. for the post-lockdown phase) as opposed to 1450 individuals before the pandemic which points towards unemployment on a large scale. In simple terms, most of the earlier employed people have not been able to find suitable job opportunities in Madhya Pradesh yet.

●  As far as the performance of various employment schemes of Madhya Pradesh is concerned, 585 (45.31%) out of 1291 people said that they were not aware of any such schemes. A total of 706 respondents said that they were aware of at least one of such schemes. The exact representation of the responses (scheme-wise) for this question is as under: 

Name of the Scheme Number of Respondents who knew about it
Naya Savera Yojana for labourers 100 people (7.75%)
Shram Siddhi Abhiyaan 112 people (8.68%)
MP Jeevan Shakti Yojana 133 people (10.30%)
MP Rojgar Setu Yojana 2020 247 people (19.13%)
Mukhya Mantri Jan Kalyan (Sambal) Yojana 254 people (19.68%)
MGNREGA 359 people (27.81%)
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Grameen 494 people (38.27%)
Others 13 people (1.07%)

IV. CHANGE IN EARNING PATTERNS

● The earning capacity of those who are employed has also been drastically affected. To give our readers a perspective, we have presented a contrast of their earnings during the pre- covid and post lockdown era.

●  The graph clearly illustrates that before Covid-19, more number of respondents fell in comparatively higher income groups (those who earnt 350 or more per day). Since their return to Madhya Pradesh, the number of respondents for high-income groups has been consistently declining. This negatively impacts their standard of living.

●  As far as the current situation is concerned, around 40% (majority) of respondents earn less than Rs.250 per day. This is a matter of grave concern as only 8% of them belonged to this income group before Covid.

V. NON-OBSERVANCE OF SUPREME COURT DIRECTIONS

●  To ensure that the returning migrant workers find sufficient employment opportunities in their home states, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide its order dated 9th June 2020 had issued the following directions:

  1. Each State was required to maintain a record of all such migrant workers who were coming back. The details of migrant workers, nature of their skill, place of their earlier employment were required to be maintained in prescribed proforma formulated by the concerned State at the village level, block level and the district level so that necessary help could be extended by the State authorities and district authorities to these migrant labourers.
  2. Counselling centres were required to be set up by the concerned State at the block level and the district level to provide all information regarding Government schemes and other avenues of employment to these workers and where possible to expand the avenues of employment to these workers so that they may not sit idle and they may be utilised as a resource by the State.
  3. The States were also expected to provide the necessary information and facilitate the return of the workers who wanted to return to their employment. Necessary information could be provided by the State in this regard by creating the help desk with the help of railway authorities and road transport authorities.

●  Actual action in respect of the above-mentioned directions has been dismal. Only 14.07% (198) of 1407 respondents mentioned that their nature of skill (skilled or unskilled) was recorded. The majority of respondents (66.24%) said that only the basic details (such as Name, Age, Gender, Place of work, Village etc.) were asked. Recording the nature of skill was required as the same could have helped the state in locating suitable job opportunities for these workers and supporting their livelihood.

●  Moreover, only 8.18% of respondents mentioned that they had information of or accessibility to counselling centres or state aid camps.

●  Similarly, only 9.11% of people said that some kind of awareness or sensitization programs on re-employment was organised in their villages. The majority of respondents were not aware of even a single government employment scheme.

VI. AREAS WHERE THE STATE PERFORMED WELL

●  The study has highlighted certain areas where the State and government actually did a good job and made things for the migrant workers easier. The most significant work has been done in relation to the travel of these workers.

●  Online Registration – Out of 1481 people, 68% had registered themselves online with the government to facilitate their transport from the host state to home state. 39% of them received assistance from the state to complete the process.

●  Extensive assistance – The data further reveals that 52% of the respondents were in possession of smartphones while the other 48% had to rely on offline modes for registration. On a brighter side, out of 578 responses received for offline registration, 390 people (67.5%) said that they were duly assisted by government officials in the process.

●  Travel funded by the government- Interestingly, in a total of 1202 people, almost 58% said that the tickets for their travel were funded entirely by the government. 494 persons out of a total of 965 (51%) said that the government had also provided for travel facilities from Railway stations to their respective villages.

●  A substantial percentage (73.68%) of those who travelled through the train stated that they received food for free during the journey. More than 75% of them said that the food average and above (quality-wise) which shows that the state performed better on this front.

VII. FUTURE HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS

●  Around one-quarter of the respondents (364 people) had already left Madhya Pradesh when they were responding to this survey. Out of the 332 people who stated the reason behind such a decision, an overwhelming majority (92.77%) said that lack of employment opportunities in M.P. forced them to move out. The remaining people cited family and COVID related health concerns as the primary reason.

●  Additionally, many respondents (currently residing in Madhya Pradesh) said that they were considering moving to other places in near future owing to extensive unemployment and dysfunctional government schemes in their areas.

●  Against this backdrop, it must be mentioned that these people are not leaving their home state and villages happily. Findings suggest that out of 1450 respondents, 51.79% responded that Madhya Pradesh is their first preference for future employment and permanent settlement. Only 3% said that they were flexible to working anywhere. Despite their aspirations of living together with their families, around 45% of the people said that they wanted to move to other states considering the current employment scenario in Madhya Pradesh.

MIGRANT STORIES: TRAGEDY AND HOPE INTERTWINED

The journey of working on this Report and the overall experience has been overwhelming for each one of us. While speaking to these people we came across remarkable stories. Some of them, being extremely ghastly, shook us to the core. At the same time, there were others, the heart-warming ones, which restored our faith in mankind and humanity. These stories, which are beyond the scope of any study, gave us a glimpse into the lives of these people and their everyday struggle. We decided to share a few of them with our readers.

For the purpose of safety and confidentiality, we have changed the names of the relevant parties related to the story.

1. A Messiah and a Devil in disguise – Babloo is a married man who identifies himself as belonging to the Other Backward Classes category. He used to stay in Bhopal before shifting to Pune for employment, with his family – a wife and 2 small kids. His life was going well and he used to earn a reasonable amount while working in the waterproofing and painting industry in Pune. He got to know about the lockdown through the media and heard about the unemployment situation in his industry. While his family was in Pune, all their savings were utilised and they were only left with the bare minimum to survive. Even then, due to financial constraints, he had to wait till the government announced running of special Shramik trains for the migrant workers. Babloo registered his name multiple times so that he and his family could travel back home. However, despite registering, his family’s name didn’t appear in the train list. The fear of Covid and the apathy they faced after he lost his job forced him and his family to start walking from Pune towards MP. Pune is about 789 km from Bhopal. They started walking with very little food in the hope that they would get some vehicle which could drop them off at MP borders. However, within a few hours of beginning to walk their food was finished with their children crying on multiple occasions about how their legs were paining. Babloo informed us that their family was fortunate some “Messiah” provided their family with food for the way, and that’s the only reason they could survive their walk. Fortunately, Babloo found a traveller tempo for his wife and his children who, at a low cost, promised to get them home. He was a little relieved to know that now his family could reach home safely without much trauma of displacement or pain. He took another vehicle to return home. Once he got back, he realised that his family was still not home. When his wife arrived home, she had tears in her eyes as she told him how she was molested by the driver of the tempo and the co-passengers. Babloo narrates this story with a heavy voice which not only signifies institutionalized neglect but also social neglect towards his family from all possible angles.

2. Covid 19: The Aggravating social divide – In the village of Pachokhar which falls in Tehsil- Mangawan of District- Rewa, Madhya Pradesh lives Shyam, who is a migrant worker. Shyam is the sole breadwinner of his family, who when contacted, complained of the caste discrimination in his village. Shyam belongs to OBC category which is considered to be more privileged in India than the marginalised groups belonging to Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes. Pachokar village panchayat is highly dominated by members belonging to the Brahmin community. As a result, most of the schemes and subsidies which are announced by the government often don’t even reach the backward and scheduled castes while the Brahmin community in the village takes advantage of almost every scheme which is announced for the villages. Shyam informs that Devi, a Scheduled Caste woman, has a broken roof above her head for years which gets even more damaged in the rainy season, and the leakage fills their houses on a regular basis. Pachokhar village gets funds under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna almost every year, with the family of a local Brahmin leader having four pucca houses. The Government of MP announces schemes for cow breeding which the backward castes are not even aware of, while the same scheme provides benefits to almost every upper caste household. Shyam who belongs to OBC category once reached out to the Panchayat Secretary to create documents for availing schemes and they demanded bribe for sending these documents to higher authorities. Shyam used to have a very busy day in a district of Maharashtra wherein, before lockdown, he used to drive someone’s car for OLA and Uber and was paid around 350-400 per day, depending on the number of daily rides. However once the lockdown was announced, it came down heavily on thousands of drivers like Shyam. He is now back in his village and trying to survive on the bare minimum of facilities. He misses his time in Maharashtra but has the small relief of being with his family currently. Shyam is scared of telling this story but he also has faith that maybe, someday, these instances of apathy will be highlighted. He is also very delighted to know that someone called him to know of his employability after months. Even when he doesn’t have the resources to make his future bright, he definitely had a bright smile that someone cared enough to listen to his story.

3. Rakesh: A ray of Hope – Rakesh is from a small village called Belkhedi, in the Sehpura Tehsil of Jabalpur. He was a supervisor in a reputed company, earning around 17,000 rupees a month for his livelihood. Soon, however, Covid struck, and he had to come back to his village owing to insufficient means of sustenance. Rakesh has a diploma and good command over maths and science. And when we contacted him, we were introduced to a heart-warming story. Speaking to us, he said that once he came back, he was moved by the situation of the school students in his village who mostly failed in Maths and English, leaving their basic education hanging by a thread. These children dropped out of school as early as after 8th and 10th standard. In an entirely selfless gesture, he didn’t ask us for employment help but said that he wants to settle down in the village and he plans to start coaching for these children, where he would teach them Maths and Science for free. Moved by Rakesh’s noble intentions, Zenith Volunteers crowdfunded and sent copies, pens, and pencils for him and his students. Rakesh now wants to bring about constructive change in society. Zenith is trying to get a device for his students to ensure classes in English so he can achieve his goals and help educate the future. In these unpredictable, almost apocalyptic times, Rakesh has been a ray of shining hope, reflective of all the good that human beings can do in the world. His story only serves to remind us at Zenith why we do this work and pushes us to keep moving even when the light at the end of the tunnel seems dim.


Report Prepared by: *Rakshita Agarwal (graduate of National Law University Odisha), **Rohit Sharma (graduate of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences), and ***Lakshay Gupta (final year student, GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi).

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., while reviewing reports on conditions of migrant labourers in labour camps situated within the State of Kerala, held that a conjoint reading of Articles 21 and 51-A of the Constitution makes it clear that the State has an onerous duty to ensure the well being, life and liberty of every citizen, which includes the migrant workers as well. Therefore, the State Government has a duty to guarantee that the employers are providing appropriate shelter to the migrant workers, a clean environment and a healthy living condition along with other basic amenities. It is also the duty of the State Government to see that employers are satisfying the requirements in accordance with the prevailing laws with respect to the wages, contribution to welfare funds of the migrant labourers. The State Government is also responsible for ensuring adequate measures for curbing ill-treatment of the labourers in any manner by the employers.

With the aforementioned observations, the Court issued the following directions for the State Government so that they can effectively ensure the protection of life and liberty of the migrant workers as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution-

  • If any information is received by the State Government and its officials in respect of any ill-treatment of the migrant labourers from any responsible corners, quick action shall be taken for ensuring their well being and life and liberty.
  • In the light of Covid-19 pandemic, if any of the migrant labourers expressed their intention to go back to their native State, adequate steps shall be taken by the State Government through its Offices to ensure return of such migrant workers subject to the lockdown restrictions.
  • Government shall ensure that migrant workers are not forcibly detained by the employers
  • While taking steps for migrant welfare, the State Government and the concerned authorities must take steps in gathering the details of identity and other information of the migrants remaining within the State and those who will return to the State post Covid-19. This step is essential in order to nab the migrants who involve themselves in criminal activities.
  • The State Government is free to frame an appropriate Legislation or Rules in regard to the stay and management of the migrants within the State instead of issuing fragmented notifications/circulars/orders to satisfy the requirements of a particular issue cropping up.

[Suo Moto v. State of Kerala, WP(C) No. 23724 of 2016, decided on 01-07-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

The National Human Rights Commission has filed an application for intervention and directions along with suo motu writ petition No. 6 of 2020 in the Supreme Court of India on the problems and miseries of migrant labourers, who had been stranded in different parts of the country after the nationwide lockdown.

The Court admitted the intervention application of the Commission. The Commission has sought directions from the Supreme Court for consideration of implementation of its proposed short term and long term measures in order to decrease the plight of the migrant workers and to ensure that the human rights of these poor labourers are not violated.

Short term measures include:

i. In order to estimate the in-flow of migrant workers, States should collect the data of migrant workers at the point of departure in the originating States as well on arrival in the destination States. This will help States to effectively plan quarantine and relief measures for the migrant workers.

ii. The Government of India and the State Governments must ensure proper implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act,1979 so that the migrant workers are provided with a journey allowance.

iii. Menstrual hygiene products should be provided to migrant women and adolescent girls across the country.

iv. Each state should be directed to ensure proper functioning of shelter homes especially for the accommodation of pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, and elderly person. It should be ensured that medical facilities and nutritious food are available in these shelter homes.

v. Each State should be directed to identify the industry in which the migrant labour is working i.e. construction, agriculture, brick kiln, etc. This identification will aid the State in creating schemes for the migrant workers and in the preparation of a State-wide and Nation-wide database.

vi. States should be directed to take steps for the support of migrant workers, similar to the steps taken by the State of Odisha which has set up a toll-free Sharmik (labour force) Sahayata Helpline, Migrant Labour Help Desk, seasonal hostels for the children of migrant workers, and has strengthened Anti-Human Trafficking Units for migrant workers.

vii. States must ensure medical facilities for check-ups for migrants before and after the journey, as well was availability of food and medical care during the journey. For migrants who are walking or travelling on bicycles, food and water should be made available both at the originating and destination states, as well as en route.

viii. The originating States should take steps to identify the destitute among the migrant labour and provide some quantum of compensation to ensure that they do not resort to begging after reaching their destination.

ix. Railways in consultation with the respective State Governments should ensure that such delays do not take place and the trains do not reach wrong destinations. A mission similar to that of the dedicated Vande Bharat Mission should be started in a phased manner to help migrant workers reach their source destination.

x. A fund should be created for payment of ex-gratia relief by the concerned DM, which will provide fixed compensation to every migrant returning home.

Long term measures include:

i. A special provision to be inserted in the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 to deal with emergency situations like Covid-19, natural disasters etc.

ii. Appointment of a claim commissioner to look into recovery from employers who abandoned their labourers despite notification for continuity of wages by Central Govt.

iii. Allocation of funds to states to be allotted to gram panchayats in order to create employment opportunities in the home states of migrants.

iv. National portal for registration of migrants so that a nationwide database is created.

v. Compensation to family members of those who died while migrating to their respective states.

vi. Universal Ration Card to be granted to migrants

vii. Maximum benefits be extended to the migrant labour as provided for under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

viii. The government should implement its scheme, that it had announced to launch, for affordable rental housing complexes for migrant workers and urban poor as soon as possible.

ix. There should be a Nodal agency created under the Ministry of Labour for the resolution of Inter-State migrant labour issues. A study of best practices from other countries on issues concerning migrant labour could be commissioned.

x. Simplified registration process for ensuring the understanding capability of the migrant workers. In this context, the issue of giving a universal number / smart card with portability of migrant workers may be revisited.


NHRC

Press Release dt. 05-06-2020

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ will pass the order in the matter related to the problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country on June 9, 2020.

“List the matter on 09.06.2020 for orders.”

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 the following interim directions on May 28, 2020:

  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.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 05.06.2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

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]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Gujarat High Court: Taking suo motu cognizance of the way private hospitals in the State of Gujarat are indulging in blatant profiteering in the time of Covid-19, the Division Bench of J.B. Pardiwala and Ilesh J. Vora, JJ., gave important directions to the State Government in relation to regulation of private hospitals; proper arrangement of sending the migrants to their homes and overall management of every aspect of governance to deal with one of the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has seen. The Court also expressed its deep respect for all the frontline ‘corona warriors’ for showing exemplary dedication towards public welfare.

Prior to issuing directions, the Bench, at length discussed the reports provided by various Government Departments highlighting the steps they have taken to alleviate the sufferings of the public. The Court further noted that how the print media highlighted the fact that Gujarat has been one worst hit with the coronavirus and how frontline ‘corona warriors’ like the doctors are not being provided with enough PPEs to protect themselves from being infected. The Bench observed that the public healthcare system is completely overwhelmed with the situation. The Court also took notice of the fact that how several private hospitals are using this situation to charge exorbitant amount of money from people to conduct tests and treatments. The Court also lamented upon the situation prevalent in Civil Hospital at Ahmadabad where the situation is such that it has ‘contributed the most in increasing the number of Covid-19 deaths in the State.’ Finally the Court also took notice of the news published in The Times of India, wherein they had pointed out how the revenue department has been issuing threats to boycott the work related to the migrants as “it is not a task meant for the employees of the revenue department”.   

Perusing various Supreme Court decisions; relevant statutory provisions, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of the State Policy as enshrined in the Constitution, The Court issued the following relevant directions-

  • Expressing its exasperation upon seeing that how multi speciality hospitals in the State are seeking to profit off people’s perils, and pointing out that health is a recognised Fundamental Right in the Constitution, the State is obliged to protect it. Therefore the Government was directed to initiate legal proceedings against all those private / corporate hospitals that are not ready and willing to honour the understanding arrived at with regard to treating the COVID19 patients. Directions were given to the State Government to initiate talks with certain excluded multi-speciality hospitals and enter into a MoU with them. The Court further pointed out that in times like these; the private hospitals have both moral and legal obligations.
  • The State Government was directed to issue a Notification making it mandatory for all the multi-speciality private / corporate hospitals in the city of Ahmedabad and on the outskirts to reserve 50% of their beds (or such other capacity, as the State Government may deem fit and proper on the basis of the increase in the number of cases). Furthermore the State Government should explore the possibility of extending Ayushman Bharat project to the private hospitals as well.
  • Regarding the situation persisting at the Civil Hospital in Ahmadabad, the Court directed the Government to transfer the doctors not working properly in the hospital to other districts; improve working conditions of the resident doctors; ascertain accountability of senior officers who have failed to improve the health care provided by the hospital; increase the number of hospital beds and ventilators etc.
  • The Court directed the Gujarat Government to adopt the policy of State of Maharashtra, to ask the general physicians to run their own clinics or serve in the Government COVID hospitals. It was further directed that the Government must ensure the procurement of testing kits thereby enabling the private players to carry out Covid testing at Government prescribed rates.
  • The Railway authorities were directed to waive of one way charges of migrant labourers or in the alternative, for the State Government to bear such charges.
  • Finally taking a stern notice of the actions of the revenue department in issuing threats to boycott the tasks related to the migrants, the Court directed to State Government to take strict actions to resolve the issue.

Giving out concluding remarks, the Court drew an analogy between the Covid- 19 crisis and the time when Titanic sank. Pointing out that how only 1 ship ‘The Carpathia’ which was farthest away from the sinking ship was the one and only to respond to the distress call sent out by the Titanic. Commenting that in an unprecedented crisis such Covid-19, all the organs of the State; the private players; the NGOs all must try to emulate the spirit of The Carpathia and try to work together to alleviate the sufferings of the people, especially the poor. [Suo Motu v. State of Gujarat, Writ Petition (PIL) No. 42/2020, decided on 22-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19Supreme Court

Taking suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who had been stranded in different parts of the country, the 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, JJ has issued notice to the Union of India and all States / Union Territories to submit their responses by Thursday i.e. 28.05.2020, looking into the urgency of the matter.

The Court took sup motu cognizance 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 said that the newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortuanate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances. They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on-foot, cycles or other modes of transport.

“In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of the society needs succor and help by the concerned Governments especially steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State Governments/Union Territories in this difficult situation to extend helping hand to these migrant labourers.”

Noticing that although the Government of India and the State Governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses, the Court was of the view that effective concentrated efforts are required to redeem the situation. It said,

“The adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters are immediately to be 1 provided by the Centre and State Governments free of costs.”

The Court, hence, 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.

[In re : Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers. SUO MOTU WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No(s). 6/2020, order dated 26.05.2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh after taking suo motu cognizance of media reports that the bodies of Auraiya road accident victims were being carried along with the injured migrant labourers in the same vehicle by the authorities on 16.05.2020. He has been asked to submit a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.

The report is expected to be comprehensive, giving the details of the action taken against the delinquent officers and relief/ rehabilitation provided to the victim migrant labourers and their families by the state authorities. The Commission would also like to know about the health status of the injured migrant labourers and status of their medical treatment.

Issuing the notice, the Commission, has also observed that it is indeed unethical and inhuman on the part of the authorities to put the dead bodies in the same vehicle in which the injured migrant labourers were asked to travel.

The injured persons had suffered not only physical injuries but they were also under tremendous trauma of the fatal accident and in that painful condition, they were forced to sit in the same vehicle where the bodies of the deceased were also kept.

The public servants failed to deal with the situation sensibly and acted in a cruel manner violating right to dignity of the poor labourers.

Reportedly, 26 migrant labourers lost life and more than 30 sustained injuries in the fatal accident when two trucks, one coming from Punjab and the other from Rajasthan, collided on the highway in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh.

Later, as the photographs of the truck carrying the dead and the injured in the same truck went viral on social media, the authorities sensing the outrage transferred the dead bodies in the ambulance vehicles at Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.


NHRC

[Press Release dt. 23-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

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]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that a pregnant migrant woman, who was walking on foot from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh, has delivered her baby on road. She rested for 2 hours after the delivery and then continued walking for the remaining 150 kilometres.

The pregnant woman and her husband had reportedly started their journey from Nashik in Maharashtra and were walking towards their home in Satna in Madhya Pradesh.

The Commission has observed that this incident amounts to sheer negligence of the state authorities resulting in violation of human rights of the victim woman. Rights to life and dignity of the poor woman have been grossly violated. It is also indignity to the motherhood.

Accordingly, it has issued a notices to the Chief Secretaries of the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh calling for a detailed report in the matter, within four weeks including the health status of the woman and her child and also if any relief and rehabilitation has been provided by the state authorities to the aggrieved family.

The Commission would like to know about the measures being taken by both the states to ensure that the migrant labourers are not subjected to harassment and hardships during the lockdown.? The Commission would like to know as to what actions have been initiated against the erring public servants by the state authorities for their apathy & culpable negligence for not implementing the government orders and various measures mentioned in interstate Migrant Workmen Act, during lockdown period.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news reports, which are replete, almost daily, with hardships being faced by the public during countrywide lockdown. There are news that the migrant workers are still forced to walk thousands of kilometres to reach their homes. It is disheartening to know the plight of the migrant labourers, particularly women, children, old age people and the pregnant women falling prey to states’ apathy.

A pregnant woman, who needs rest, medical checkup and special care, is not only forced to walk hundreds of kilometres but also to deliver her baby during her painful journey.

According to the media reports, on 12.05.2020, the woman experienced labour pains during the journey and the delivery took place en route. The husband of the woman has , reportedly, stated that after his wife delivered the baby, they rested for two hours and then again resumed walking as they had to cover at least another 150 kilometres to reach home. It is further mentioned that at Dhule, in Maharashtra clothes and essentials were given to them by a family for the newborn baby.


National Human Rights Commission

[Press Release dt. 14-05-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

PM CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations) Fund Trust today decided to allocate Rs. 3100 Crore for fight against COVID-19. Out of Rs 3100 crore, a sum of approximately Rs 2000 crore will be earmarked for the purchase of ventilators, Rs 1000 crores will be used for care of migrant labourers and Rs 100 crores will be given to support vaccine development.

The trust formed on 27th March 2020 is headed by Prime Minister (ex-Officio) and other ex-officio Members of the trust are Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister. While announcing this package, the Prime Minister has thanked all the donors for their generosity in contributing to the PM CARES Fund which will support India’s fight against COVID-19

a) 50,000 Ventilators

For augmenting the infrastructure to tackle COVID-19 cases across the country, 50000 ‘Made-in-India’ ventilators will be purchased from PM CARES Fund at a cost of approximately Rs 2000 Crores. These ventilators will be provided to government run COVID hospitals in all States/UTs, for better treatment of the critical COVID-19 cases.

b) Relief Measures for Migrants

For strengthening the existing measures being taken for the welfare of the migrants and poor, the States/UTs will be given a lump sum assistance of totalRs. 1000 Crore from PM CARES Fund. This amount would be provided to the State Governments/UTs to place it at the disposal of the District Collectors/Municipal Commissioners for strengthening their efforts in providing accommodation facilities, making food arrangements, providing medical treatment and making transportation arrangements of the migrants. State/UT-wise funds will be released on the weightage of (a) Population of the State/UT as per 2011 Census – 50%, weightage (b) Number of positive COVID-19 cases as on date – 40% weightage and (c) Equal share (10% weightage) for all states/UTs to ensure basic minimum sum for all states. The fund will be released to the District Collector/District Magistrate/Municipal Commissioner through the State Disaster Relief Commissioner of the States/UTs concerned.

c) Vaccine Development

A vaccine against COVID-19 is the most pressing need and Indian academia, start-ups and industry have come together in cutting-edge vaccine design and development.To support the COVID-19 vaccine designers and developers, an amount of Rs. 100 Crore will be given from PM CARES Fund as a helping hand to catalyse vaccine development, which will be utilized under the supervision of Principal Scientific Advisor.


Prime Minister’s Office

[Press Release dt. 13-05-2020]

[Source: PIB]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Government of India has been giving a great deal of importance to the welfare of migrant labourers and stranded persons during the implementation of lock down measures for containment of COVID-19 in the country.

Cabinet Secretary has written to all States/UTs to ensure effective implementation of detailed guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for ensuring safety, shelter and food security of migrant labourers.

The Communication urges States to direct all District Collectors to immediately undertake a review of the situation. They may appoint nodal officers, if not already appointed, for coordinating and monitoring the issues related to migrant labourers. In metropolitan areas, Municipal Commissioners may be assigned the responsibility of implementation of welfare measures.

The document further states that all districts may undertake a comprehensive enumeration of migrant labourers and stranded persons and make all necessary arrangements for providing food and shelter for them.

The Communication directs that each relief camp should be under the charge of a senior officer. They may also enlist the support of civil society organizations and the network of mid-day meal facilities to provide food for all the stranded persons and migrant labourers during the period of lockdown.

Psycho-social counseling may also be provided to such persons, as per guidelines issued by M/o Health & Family Welfare in this regard, it adds.


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 16-04-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Bombay High Court: A. A. Sayed, J. addressed issues pertaining to migrant labourers, homeless and other marginalised communities in the city of Mumbai pursuant to COVID-19 pandemic and in particular relating to making water, food and healthcare facilities available to them.

B V Samant, AGP submitted that State Government has set up relief/shelter camps and about 7.5 lakh migrant labourers have been accommodated and along with that they are being provided 3 meals a day.

In each district a common helpline has been set up. Various advisories have been issued by Centre and State Government that being followed by authorities.

Senior Counsel, Gayatri Singh for the petitioners submitted that though various advisories have been issued by Centre and State Government and there are several schemes in place, there is no implementation of the same by State authorities and the benefits pursuant to them are not reaching the migrant labourers and homeless persons.

No proper response to the help-lines and there are several areas where there is no water, food, medicines and healthcare, and toilet facilities made available.

Court’s Decision

Bench stated that the issues pertain to implementation of the advisories and schemes of Centre and State Government and as regards the benefits being made available to all the migrants and the marginalised sections of community.

There is a scheme in place for victims of disasters through the Legal Services Authorities to ensure immediate help to the victims of disaster by Government and Non-Government Agencies. Under the said scheme, the State Legal Services Authorities are required to co- ordinate the implementation of the plan of action prepared by the Disaster Management Authorities and supervise the transferring victims of disaster to shelters and the distribution of food, drinking water, medicines and healthcare, to such victims.

Thus, District Legal Services Authorities can play an effective role by co-ordinating the activities of the State Government authorities.

Hence, endeavour of the State Government must be that no victims go hungry and the food/food-grains reach all victims (even in remote areas), and drinking water, medicines, healthcare and hygienic toilette facilities are provided to them. [Sarva Hara Jan Andolan v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 520, decided on 08-04-2020]